By Jeanie Hankins
Enough signatures have been validated to trigger a recall of Wickenburg Mayor Everett Sickles.
Having served as mayor for approximately 14 months, Sickles has stirred up enough lasting controversy to prompt a heated town council race in 2018, and now finds himself possibly fighting to stay in office.
At the top of the mayor’s agenda since he took office is a self-described mission to “save this town.” Sickles has declared repeatedly during town council meetings that the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce is damaging economic development and “the problem must be solved, before the town can move forward.”
Twice, chamber supporters have rallied in an attempt to unseat Sickles. The first try occurred last summer but fell flat due to problems with the petitions which led to many of the signatures being thrown out during the verification process. Wickenburg is positioned in two counties, Yavapai and Maricopa. Signatures of residents in each county must be validated by their respective county recorder’s office. Four-hundred-forty valid signatures are necessary to prompt a recall election. After the first attempt failed, Chamber supporters regrouped and collected more than 600 signatures, which they turned in for validation last fall.
The charge has been led by former Town Councilman Ruben Madrid. Madrid confirmed on Monday evening that he had received letters from the recorders’ offices that a total of 575 signatures had been deemed valid – 494 in Maricopa County and 81 in Yavapai.
Madrid said the next step for the recall committee with be to find a person willing to run against Sickles.
Meanwhile, the next step at Town Hall will be for the Council to issue a Call of Election during its regularly scheduled meeting Jan. 22,.
Town Clerk Amy Brown confirmed Tuesday she is preparing the Call of Election as an agenda item and the council’s consideration is only a formality because under state law the recall must move forward.
The only way to avoid the recall election at this point would be for the mayor to resign. Sickles told the Sun on Tuesday morning that he does not anticipate resigning. He noted that he had just received the news of the recall on Tuesday morning and hadn’t thought too much about it.
“Basically, it’s a pack of lies,” Sickles said in reference to the verbiage of the recall petition. While the chamber of commerce is not specifically noted in the recall wording, Sickles said in his defense, “We fought the basic chamber against coersion and extortion of money ... so how does me standing up for the people and what they want say that I am trying to destroy the community? None of this makes any sense to me. You can twist it any way you want. You know that’s probably what will happen. This whole thing, the people want me to do something, I do it. They ask me to take on this with the chamber , nobody would take on it the last 30 years.”
As far as his option to resign, Sickles said, “I’m not positive. I would like to see what the people want. Do they want coersion and extortion in this town? Do they want it to continue on? How do we take our economic engine, the most important thing that any place has clear across the United States, the economic engine is the number one thing, and say that we can coerse it or extort it? No, that’s impossible.”
Sickles has relied on a self-executed “poll” of the public which he conducted early in his campaign to guide him in his actions toward the Chamber. He said Tuesday he does not intend to conduct another poll of the public. “It wouldn’t do any good. Nothing’s changed.”
He noted that the proposal to have the town operate a visitor center is “somewhat on the road to solving it.”
“We have a proposal out there. I’m waiting to see what is going on,” he said.
An opponent in the recall election has not yet been identified. Madrid said he has not decided whether to run for mayor because he must first consider his health; on the other hand he has not yet ruled out the possibility of challenging Sickles if necessary.
“I hope that we will find someone that has the community at heart and not somebody that is vindictive against the chamber,” Madrid said.
“I really appreciate all the people that signed the petitions and got us this far into getting the recall started,” he noted.