Article from Edmonton Journal: Longest serving Edmonton city councillor, Ron Hayter, dead at 81
Edmonton’s longest-serving city councillor, Ron Hayter, was remembered by his family as someone who was tough and demanding, but also quick to hug, quick to laugh, and quick to forgive. He died Saturday at age 81 in a St. Albert nursing home.
First elected in 1971, Hayter spent 33 years on council before retiring in 2010. At the time of his retirement, the Ward 2 councillor was one of Canada’s longest-serving municipal politicians in office. Remembering a colleague and a friend, Coun. Scott McKeen described Hayter as “one of Edmonton’s greatest characters.”
“He stood up for Edmonton,” McKeen said. “He wasn’t intimidated by premiers, politicians, MLAs or ministers. He told it like it was. He was a firebrand.”
But away from the eyes of the public and politicians, Hayter was a doting dad. On Sunday, his daughter Sparkle Hayter shared some memories. “When I was a little kid, and still believed in Santa Claus, he and my mom took a big boot and made a sooty footprint on the rug, as if Santa had left it,” she said in an email. “They were always doing things like that.”
Hayter was predeceased by his wife, Grace Hayter, who died of cancer at age 64 in the Misericordia Hospital in January 2005. Sparkle Hayter said on Sundays the family drove to small towns where her father’s baseball team was playing, so they got to see a lot of central Alberta. “Games were usually followed by picnics and ice cream.”
Another incident she recalled was from 1983 when she and her father drove to Hinton and Grande Cache to “abduct” his father, Slim Hayter, an old trapper, and bring him to the city for Christmas so he could meet his great grandson Emerson (and also see the doctor, because her grandfather had missed an appointment).
“That was an adventure,” she said. “Seeing where he grew up in northern Saskatchewan, and seeing where our family came from in P.E.I. was wonderful too. He took me with him to meet Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and also (Pierre Elliott Trudeau), and those were big thrills for a budding wonk like me.”
Hayter first moved to Edmonton in 1959 to become a reporter for the Edmonton Journal. Close to a decade later, in 1968, he unsuccessfully ran for city council before winning a seat three years later. He retired from public office in 1995 for a six-year stint with the National Parole Board, but returned to civic politics in 2001. Hayter was a past president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a life member of the Yellowhead Highway Association and he pushed for construction of the LRT, the new City Hall and what became the Shaw Conference Centre. He was also behind public smoking restrictions and the appointment of Canada’s first municipal auditor. Early in his career, Hayter twice ran unsuccessfully as a provincial Liberal candidate and was asked twice by Premier Ralph Klein to seek a provincial Tory nomination, but he turned down those invitations.
Hayter was also a keen sportsman and was a powerful force within the baseball community in the city, province and nation. Inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, Hayter not only played the sport but in 1968 he took the reins of Baseball Alberta for three years. He also served Baseball Canada in various capacities over the years and represented Canada in the International Baseball Federation for 18 years. In 1979 he founded the Edmonton International Baseball Foundation. “If there was any justice in this world, the baseball park would be called Ron Hayter Park,” McKeen said of Edmonton’s ball field.
While Hayter loved baseball, his daughter said he shared a passion for a lot of other things. “He played (baseball) with us when we were kids. He loved to go out into the bush with his dogs, and he loved to laugh,” she said. “He loved comedy and turned me on to some very funny people. He loved to travel, and I was able to meet up with him and my mom in different places after I moved away. We had a great time in London, in Vegas, in New York and in Toronto.”
But home was where his heart was. “He loved Edmonton best of all, and was a great promoter of the city wherever he went,” she said. “Nobody worked harder for Edmonton than Ron Hayter.”
Mayor Don Iveson took to social media Sunday to offer his “heartfelt condolences to the Hayter family, with gratitude for Ron’s service” to Edmonton. Iveson said the High Level Bridge will be turned blue Monday night in his memory. Details for a memorial service are still being worked out.