PLATTSBURGH — Former City of Plattsburgh Mayor Carlton Rennell passed away Monday at the age of 87.
Rennell died in Florida after a brief illness, according to his son, Carlton "Skip" Rennell Jr.
"Dad had a long and wonderful life, and so many people loved him," his son said.
Rennell served as mayor for four two-year terms, from 1982 to 1990. Before that, he was an alderman from 1972 to 1975.
He was an alderman and mayor as a Democrat, but Rennell's first attempt at a council seat was as a Republican. He lost in a close race.
"He was a teacher and a big union guy, and he was more of a Democrat anyway so he switched," his son said.
Rennell was actually the first male teacher at Monty Street Elementary School, where he worked from 1965 to 1981 before becoming mayor.
Rennell Jr. said his father told him that it was important to listen to everyone.
"Most elections were won by only 1 or 2 percent, so he told me that whenever he walked down the street, he knew that half of the people he met probably didn't like him," Rennell Jr. said.
Although he never served with Rennell, current Plattsburgh Mayor James Calnon said the city has suffered a great loss.
"I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family and our gratitude for his service to the city," Calnon said.
"He was a very affable leader who loved and appreciated his city and treated people well."
TOUGH FISCAL TIMES
In Rennell's final term as mayor, which ended in Dec. 1989, the city was faced with severe financial challenges.
The council was considering a 28-percent tax increase, at one point, which riled up many residents, who formed a taxpayers group that often jammed council meetings with complaints.
One of those residents was Robert Heins, who would later become a city councilor and then a Clinton County legislator representing the city.
Heins said he had great respect for Rennell.
"He had to run the city in some very challenging times, but no matter what happened, he never said anything bad about anyone," Heins said.
"He represented the city well in public and at the state level, too."
Robert Hall, a Clinton County legislator from Area 10 in the city, served as an alderman on the City Council when Rennell was mayor.
Hall said Rennell loved the city.
"He was really good to me and always treated me well," Hall said.
"This is very sad news, and I feel for the family and my thoughts are with them."
Hall said the Mayor's Cup, a sailing regatta on Lake Champlain that was started by Rennell's predecessor, John Ianelli, in 1977, really became a staple of Plattsburgh's summers under Rennell in the 1980s.
The event grew from just a sailboat race to include many attractions downtown, now known as landlubber activities.
"He really did help the Mayor's Cup grow a lot, and people loved it," Hall said.
Roland Lockwood, who was also on the council with Hall, agreed.
"Captain (Frank) Pabst used to take us all out on the Juniper, and we would watch the race up close, and it was a lot of fun," Lockwood said.
Lockwood said he and Rennell did not always agree on issues, even though they were both Democrats, but the mayor was always professional.
"We used to meet twice a week, and he was always in a coat and tie and acted very professionally, and he was always a gentleman," Lockwood said.
Rennell Jr. said his father worked with then-Mayor of Burlington Bernie Sanders to help boost not only the Mayor's Cup but other attractions on the lake that the two cities shared.
"He was very interested in growing the Mayor's Cup, and he and Bernie Sanders became friends," Rennell Jr. said.
Sanders went on to become a member of Congress from Vermont and is now a senator from the Green Mountain state.
SURVIVED BY WIFE
Calnon said the city's logo, which adorns city stationary and envelopes and can been seen on the doors of city vehicles, was created under Rennell.
"He left his mark on the city, and we are very sorry to hear of his loss."
Rennell and his wife of 67 years, Alberta, moved to the St. Petersburg, Fla., area after Rennell left office, his son said.
Alberta survives him, as do his two brothers, Robert Rennell of Port Kent and Donald Rennell of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Port Kent.
Rennell Jr. said his family was still finalizing details for memorial services for his father.
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