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Citizens panel nominates three finalists to replace Flake

A nine-member panel of Navajo County citizens has nominated three people to replace the late Sen. Jake Flake.

The panel, which was appointed by the Navajo County Board of Supervisors in compliance with the statutory procedure for filling legislative vacancies, nominated three Republicans from the county as possible replacements, including:

*Sylvia Tenney Allen, who is running for one of the District 5 seats in the state House of Representatives;

*Charlie Hendrickson, a regional manager for Arizona Public Service in Snowflake;

*and Gary Whipple, a former mayor of Show Low.

The county Board of Supervisors scheduled a special meeting June 13 at 2 p.m. to select a replacement. That person is expected to be sworn in to the Senate the morning of June 16.

Eight of the nine members of the citizens' panel called Allen their preferred choice to replace Flake.

 "I don't think anybody knows our problems…as well as Sylvia does," Show Low City Councilman Jack Latham said. "Jake can never be replaced, but the person who can come closest to carrying on the legacy for the people of this district is Sylvia Allen."

Echoing Latham, business owner Alice Franco-Anderson said Allen is someone who would best honor Flake's legacy.

"I feel the best way to honor him would be to appoint someone who would act in the way he would, someone who knows the issues and who knows how to function in the rarified air down at the state level," she said.

Snowflake Mayor Kelly Willis said Whipple, who served as mayor for 16 years, "knows politics and how things work on a city level."

Holbrook Mayor Jeff Hill said Hendrickson is someone who had great influence in the I-40 corridor.

"I think Charlie is a good candidate for our region," he said. "He's done very well from an APS standpoint for Holbrook."

Flake's death necessitates two replacements: one as a sitting legislator and another as a candidate in this fall's election.

State law requires the elected Legislative District 5 Republican precinct committeemen from Navajo County – the county Flake lived in – to nominate three candidates to replace Flake on the fall ballot. The county Board of Supervisors is then charged with selecting the replacement from among those three candidates.

However, because there are fewer than 30 elected Republican precinct committeemen in Navajo County, the Board of Supervisors was required to appoint a citizens' panel to choose the three candidates.

A replacement candidate will be selected at a June 14 district meeting. Both Allen and Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, are expected to offer their names to replace Flake on the ballot.

Both Allen and Konopnicki have qualified for the ballot as candidates for the House of Representatives. If either is named to the Senate ballot, the district would then be able to select another Republican for the House ballot.


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