Fairview Heights Mourns The Loss Of Former Longtime Mayor Gail Mitchell
Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
Whether hosting a fishing rodeo at Moody Park or serving as mayor, Gail Mitchell was Mr. Fairview Heights.
Mitchell, 84, died early Thursday morning.
Mitchell was a five-term mayor and served in the post for 20 years before stepping down in 2015. He previously served as an alderman in Fairview Heights for eight years.
Current Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky, who replaced Mitchell in 2015, said the former mayor was as popular in the community as he was influential.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Mayor Mitchell,” Kupsky said. “We will certainly miss Mayor Mitchell. We ask that you keep his wife, Vera, and his family in your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. The Mayor was well-liked by all and had a heart bigger than anyone can imagine.
“To me he was a good, dear friend. We worked very closely together for many decades, and I consider Gail a dear friend.”
Here are some remarks remembering Mitchell from Kupsky’s Facebook page:
- “Such a gentleman and great friend. As I traveled through my political career he was not just a supporter but a friend, one person who never had an alternative motive for helping!” Michael Slape.
- “He was my favorite person in Fairview Heights. He will be missed,” Ryan Conner.
- “He was my next door neighbor growing up. He was a great guy,” Dave Stidham.
Mitchell was born in 1937 in East St. Louis, was raised in Ava and moved back to East St. Louis where he lived before taking residence in Fairview Heights.
Prior to becoming mayor of Fairview Heights, Mitchell worked at General Motors from 1956 until his retirement in 1987.
In 1983, Mitchell was elected as Ward 3 alderman in Fairview Heights and served in that role until 1987. He was re-elected in 1991 and served a second four-year term until he ran for and was elected mayor of Fairview Heights in 1995.
“The mayor lived in Fairview Heights nearly his entire life ... and had over 28 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Fairview Heights,” Kupsky said. “He will always serve as the longest serving mayor as we now have term limits and no one can serve more than 12 years, while he served 20,” Kupsky said.
Mitchell also served as president of the Southwestern Illinois Council of Mayors from 2001-03 and vice president of the Illinois Municipal League Board. More locally, Mitchell was involved with the Fairview Heights Rotary Club, the Fairview Heights Optimists and the Fairview Heights Elks, among other civic organizations.
The lake at Moody Park (formerly Longacre Park) is named after Mitchell, where he hosted many fishing rodeos for kids. Mitchell himself was an avid fisherman, according to Kupsky.
“Mayor Mitchell was a good friend to me and a great friend to the community. Whenever anybody needed help or a hand, he was always willing to step up and pitch in. In addition to his role of serving the city, he was extremely active in many organizations,” Kupsky said.
Mitchell is survived by his wife, Vera, of more than 50 years; their four children; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Garen Vartanian is an editor with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.