PINETOP-LAKESIDE — If you spent election night looking for results for the Pinetop-Lakeside Sanitary District (PLSD), you likely found numbers but no names to go with those numbers. There was a reason — and we could or could not know the outcome because the process of write-in verification must take place before the results are posted.

Gary Atkin, John Beeler, Maria Donaghy Kenny Keith, Patrick Place and Donna Shurwin were PLSD’s six write-in candidates whose fate hangs in the balance for the three seats. Atkin, Donaghy and Shurwin presented themselves as a collective group whose agenda is to save the digester and actively continue the promotion of recycling. Beeler, Keith and Place followed suit placing signs about the area also as the team to choose.

Out of the six candidates, Place is the only incumbent though Beeler is a previous PLSD board member.

The six became write-ins when an error occurred due to the county providing the wrong deadline date for filing candidate packets, leaving the six to figure out how to get their names out before the voters.

On June 9, Christen C. Haddox, Elections Coordinator for Navajo County Election Services, sent a letter to PLSD with the Call to Election attachment. It stated that petitions must be filed between July 6 and Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Navajo County Elections Department at the Navajo County Governmental Complex in Holbrook. The letter asked the district to post it in two to three places in the community which District Manager Dave Smith said they did.

Next, Smith said the PLSD board passed a Resolution Calling Board Member Election at their regular meeting on May 13 outlining the steps to be taken for the Nov. 3 election, and made the formal request for the county to handle their election.

The county published the Call to Elections with the July 6 to Aug. 5 dates for candidates in the White Mountain Independent on June 12 and June 16.

Smith said PLSD received an email from Haddox on Aug. 18 stating, “I regret to inform you that I have made a mistake concerning your board. This year the filing dates for the November election changed and the calendar I had included the filing dates for last year, not the updated ones for this year. The dates July 6th — August 5th were what I had. The actual dates were June 6th — July 6th.”

Haddox also stated that she thought she had communicated the error to PLSD, but due to the primary election rush she later discovered she had not. She apologized for the error and informed Smith of the six names.

Smith notified each of the six candidates individually by letter on Aug. 20 of the error.

“We only give dates as a courtesy,” said Rayleen Richards, elections director. “It is correct on our website in two different places. It is up to them to make sure of the dates.”

Deputy County Attorney Jason Moore told the Independent that there was a statue which changed the dates to require candidates in nonpartisan races to file nomination papers earlier in order to appear on the ballot.

PLSD candidates hangin' 10

Six PLSD write-in candidates are anxiously awaiting election results following the required write-in verification protocol.

Beeler actually filed a complaint regarding the issue with Arizona’s Attorney General on Oct. 2 and Atkin, Donaghy and Shurwin immediately launched into proactive mode and had cards printed, enlisted help to go door-to-door with their message or cards and put up signs. There was no response from Keith but Place said he would put up signs and stand on his record with the sanitary district. Later signs were seen that listed Beeler, Keith and Place as the team to choose.

Around 11:15 p.m. Nov. 3, in an email response to the Independent, Elections Director Rayleen Richards stated, “You will not see the results until we do the write-in verification. Which will be later in the week, since all the candidates are write-ins.”

Should information still not be available at press time for our Friday edition, we will update results as soon as they are available on our website and Facebook page.

Reach the reporter at

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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