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Cathedral City Mayor Greg Pettis dead at 63

Cathedral City Mayor Greg Pettis

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. Photo: City of Cathedral City.

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.

HEALTH ISSUES

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.

SANCTUARY CITY

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 phillip.zonkel@qvoicenews.com.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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