A Remembrance from Doug Draper
Posted May 11th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
He always struck me and so many others who came to know him through his more than three decades in municipal life as an honest and decent person who could be counted on go the extra miles to address issues facing the township he so proudly served, and the region at large.
From my perspective as long-time journalist in Niagara, Stan Pettit, who served for most of his elected years as Wainfleet’s mayor and as he sole representative for the township on Niagara regional council, exemplified those virtues more than many other people who’ve held a municipal seat in this region, then and now.
Stan Pettit, who eventually narrowly lost a bid to serve another term as mayor sixteen years ago to another one of the good ones, Gord Harry, died this past Monday, May 9th. He was 80 years old.
Known for his warm handshake and smile, Stan was first elected mayor of Wainfleet in 1972 after serving four years as a township councillor. He continued in that role until 2000, making him one of a handful of individuals in Ontario, alongside the recently retired and longest lasting mayor of all, Hazel McCallion, to hold a municipal seat more than 30 years, most of them wearing the chain of office.
I got to know him in the 1980s when I was covering environmental issues for the then independently owned St. Catharines Standard and he was chair of Niagara’s regional public works committee, a position he also held for many years.
During that time, Stan Pettit was one of a handful of politicians in Niagara who played a supportive role in launching curbside recycling programs in neighbourhoods across the region. He was also a key player in what then was the highly contentious transfer of responsibilities for household waste management from Niagara’s 12 local municipalities to the region.
Stan Pettit and other forward-minded supporters of those efforts deserve credit to this day for Niagara becoming one of the first regions in Ontario to lead the way in the recycling of household and commercial waste across the province.
I also remember one hot and muggy night in the mid-1980s watching Stan Pettit stand before residents packing the arena in his township – almost all of them ready to verbally rip the head off a guy named Don Chant who was there to discuss why an Ontario crown corporation he was in charge of had placed land in Wainfleet on a short-list of candidates being considered for a large facility the province wanted to build for treating and disposing of toxic waste.
Things got loud and nasty in the arena that night and the otherwise popular mayor found himself taking more than a few verbal hits himself because, as he openly admitted, he was not yet ready to take a firm position on the crown agent’s plans.
It would have been easier for him to do what so many other politicians do and say what the crowd wanted to hear. But the Stan Pettit I remember always wanted to study things in as much detail as possible before taking a position.
It was just the way he and it may be why I saw few other politicians as weighted down with reports as he was while walking between his car and the meeting room. And few who has ever chaired meetings at the regional level has allowed more talk from committee members than Stan did, and much to the chagrin of some, he did quite a bit of talking himself.
One of my reporter colleagues at The Standard came back from one of the meetings Stan chaired and wrote that he “let the talk go around and around like a plugged toilet.”
Well, if that is the worst thing that can be said about someone in politics – that they are overly generous about letting everyone have their say – that’s not bad.
When all is said and done, we were fortunate to have a person as dedicated to the good of the community as Stan Pettit was serving us in this region. And he did it with a class and civility that is becoming rarer in politics these days.
Stan, you are already missed.
Visitation is scheduled for this Thursday, May 12th, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Armstrong Funeral Home and Chapel on Clarence Street in the neighbouring Niagara, Ontario municipality of Port Colborne.
Funeral services are set for Friday, May 13th at 11 a.m. in the funeral home’s chapel and burial services will follow at Oakwood Cemetery.
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