Residents of The Coachella Valley are mourning the sudden death of Cathedral City Mayor Greg Pettis, the city’s longest-serving councilmember and the city’s first openly gay public servant.
Pettis, 63, who was first elected in 1994, died Tuesday afternoon at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage from complications related to a 2018 gastric-bypass surgery, his family told a Palm Springs publication.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Cathedral City said, “Mayor Pettis will be remembered for his progressive legislative ideas, supporting civil rights and social justice for all people, and at the same time, working hard to bring economic development to the city he loved to call home since 1979.”
Pettis passed away after spending two days in intensive care, his family told the Desert Sun. Pettis arrived at Eisenhower Health January 9, shortly after that evening’s regular council meeting.
In August, Pettis, who was 5-foot-10 and weighed 282 pounds, told the Uken Report that after he became ill in January 2018 and had internal bleeding and needed two blood transfusions, he decided to undergo the weight-loss surgery. Pettis told the political news website that he had high blood pressure and cholesterol, three ulcers, and was prescribed 11 medications.
“I’m excited for the change,” Pettis told Uken Report, adding that his “dream weight loss goal was 100 pounds, but what he really longed for was to get healthier and satiate his desire to live longer.”
Cathedral City’s mayoral position rotates every year with the other council members approving the next candidate. Usually, the most senior council member gets the role, which is largely ceremonially.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Carnevale is the next most senior council member.
THE ROAD TO CATHEDRAL CITY
Pettis was born Dec. 15, 1955, and raised in Duarte, California, in the San Gabriel Valley. He had two siblings. His father managed a store, and his mother worked as a secretary.
Pettis earned a bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University in religion with an emphasis in biblical literature and master’s from University of Phoenix. He also attended the senior executive program in local and state government at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.
Pettis moved to Cathedral City in 1979. After nearly 15 years in the hospitality industry, Pettis, in 1994, ran for and won his seat on the council.
Pettis was a prominent Democratic activist in the Coachella Valley, attending rallies against President Donald Trump’s family separation policy and for Democratic candidates for state and federal office.
Pettis, as then-mayor pro tem, joined council members John Aguilar and Shelley Kaplan in voting yes in a 3-2 decision in May 2017 that made Cathedral City the Coachella Valley’s first “Sanctuary City.”
Phillip Zonkel can be reached at 562-294-5996 or [email protected]