Murray’s devoted servant: Remembering Mayor Lynn Pett
Oct 31, 2017 02:55PM
● By Shaun Delliskave
Lynn Pett shakes hands with Boys & Girls Club Board Member Art Pasker at the 2013 Maytag Dependable Leader award ceremony. (Photo courtesy Bob Dunn)
Consider Murray’s iconic places—The Murray Parkway Golf Course, the Jordan River Parkway Trail and Parks, the Boys & Girls Club, Ken Price Ballpark, and the Murray swimming pool—then consider that the creation of each involved or was spearheaded by one man: Lynn Pett. The former mayor passed away on September 17 after a nearly two-decade battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Pett devoted nearly 45 years to Murray City, starting out in the Murray Parks Department at the age of 16, and culminating in his election as mayor for two terms starting in 1990. While he made an impact on Murray City’s infrastructure, he made just as lasting an impression on those who he worked with.
“His middle name should have been S for service, instead of F for Frank,” declared former Murray City Councilman Jack DeMann. “He was always helping people.”
DeMann recalled one day in January 1974 when he was park commissioner for Murray City. Pett came to him with a plan for the undeveloped land by the Jordan River. Concerned about the industrial sprawl they saw communities dealing with along the river, Pett outlined a bold plan to acquire land (from Winchester Street to 4800 South) and turn it into parks and maintained wetlands. Moving forward with his plan, Pett developed the Murray Parkway Golf Course (which now bears his name) and various parks from Winchester to Arrowhead along the river parkway.
As mayor, Pett worked with DeMann to clean up the ASARCO smelter site on State Street. Pett initiated cleaning up the lead tailings that were spread over 100 acres. According to DeMann, Intermountain HealthCare had approached Pett about setting up a medical campus there if Murray could totally clean up the site. Murray’s initiative so impressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that when a smelter site on the Midvale/Murray border needed to be re-claimed, the EPA asked Murray to lead the effort, instead of the State of Utah, due to Pett’s efforts at the State Street site.
“Murray was the only municipality in the nation to be trusted with such a task,” said DeMann.
Able to get along with most anyone, Pett used his connections to get things done. “He was a liberal Democrat who rooted for the U of U, and I was a conservative Republican who rooted for BYU, but we never had a disagreement between us,” noted DeMann.
“I just remember him as a kind and dedicated community leader. I don’t think you could find a person with that much local political influence who was as sincerely and genuinely committed to what was best for the citizens of Murray,” remarked former Murray Library Director Dan Barr. “He was the best example of how a ‘politician’ could be a positive force in his or her community.”
The Murray Boys & Girls Club may have been Pett’s most passionate project; he remained devoted to the club for its entire 50-year history. When Pett volunteered at the Boys Clubs, there were only a few clubs that served girls as well as boys. Pett would only join if they would allow girls—it was something he insisted upon—and that club became one of the first Boys & Girls Clubs in the nation in 1967.
“When he got off work each day, he would go to the club and volunteer, day after day, year after year. He was serving on our Golf Tournament Committee up until only a few months ago,” said Bob Dunn, special project consultant for the Boys & Girls Club.
Pett and his wife Kathleen also attended every special event the Boys & Girls Club held during those 50 years. “It was all about the kids for Lynn. He wanted to ensure that the kids were getting what they needed, but even more that they were creating memories and experiences they could not get anywhere else,” said Dunn.
He arranged for the kids to take fishing trips. When he became mayor, he dedicated one day every summer for all city officials, fellow mayors, and councilmen to take the kids to a lake for the day, in their boats, and teach them to fish and clean the fish they caught.
Though he struggled with his health in his later years, DeMann recalled how Lynn Pett always said, “Life is good.”