Council members were saying their public goodbyes to Ward 4 Councilman Pete White at the end of the Oklahoma City Council meeting Tuesday.

The south Oklahoma City attorney has been in some sort of service to the city since 1980, serving on commissions and committees that are the core of the smooth operation of city government.

He decided not to run one more time after three consecutive successful campaigns for the seat starting in 2009. A run-off election on April 4 will decide his successor.

Emotion

At the end of the session each council member in turn made glowing remarks to White who had just sat through his last council meeting.

When it came Councilman Ed Shadid’s turn, he did something he seldom does during Oklahoma City Council meetings. He began to choke up with sad emotion.

Shadid is known for passionate argument. But it was uncharacteristic for him to show such heartfelt sadness during a meeting.

But somehow it all seemed appropriate. No body language from others betrayed any discomfort. Perhaps it was what most in the room were feeling as they saw such a long-term anchor of the council retiring.

Shadid talked about what a mentor White had been to him during his years on the council. He talked about what a minority progressives are in the state.

Then he said, “He is a hero to the progressive community.”

Few progressives and liberals in the city would disagree. But it isn’t just because he has been consistently for progressive causes over the years. Several can make that same claim.

It’s his patience and pragmatism that sets him apart. And Tuesday’s council meeting was a small sample.

Patience

White didn’t seem the least bit fazed or even slightly fatigued by an especially long Oklahoma City Council meeting Tuesday.

Pete White
Pete White, Ward 4 Councilman, City of Oklahoma City, speaks in response to the commendation

The session started with Mayor Cornett presenting a resolution commending White for his years of service.

Having some fun with the moment, the mayor waited for the vote (unanimous “yea”) before giving the resolution document to White.

People laughed. But nothing is official in that environment until there is a vote.

Normally ending somewhere around 11 a.m., this session went until around 1:45.

The council meeting was somewhat routine except for one agenda item. There was this development that the neighbors didn’t want.

And warm feelings be damned, they had an issue to protest, and it took a good two hours to work through.

He patiently listened to the tag-team stream of speakers. He also patiently listened to the attorney for the developer who was arguing for the council to just go ahead and approve the developer’s designs.

Eventually White spoke up. His questions and suggestions to the attorney for the developer showed a way to soften the issue.

At one point, he responded to the resistant young attorney, “This isn’t my first rodeo. We’ve seen plenty of protests about development on this council. I’m just trying to help you here.”

White’s suggestions were not followed, and he was patient with that, too.

At the end of the meeting he talked about disagreements.

“I just keep trying to remember, the only person who agrees with you one hundred percent is you.”

Big, last day

White went straight from that meeting to the Judiciary Committee meeting, then straight into the Water Trust meeting that he chairs.

It was one of those days, but White was smiling. He seemed to be eating up one last smorgasbord of doing government for the people.

And his last day was yet another example of how longevity, experience and wisdom matter in public service.

Pete White resolution
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