The flags at City Hall were ordered lowered to half mast on Friday to honour the late David Birtwistle, a former city councillor, mayoral candidate, and active member of Guelph’s political establishment. Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement said that Birtwistle “cared deeply” for his community, and that we was an “engaged and active citizen” even after he left formal political life.
“On behalf of Council, I extend deepest sympathies to David’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. He will be greatly missed,” Guthrie said in a statement.
“Throughout his tenure, David was a stalwart for fiscal responsibility, reducing debt levels, and respecting taxpayers’ dollars. He championed issues such as healing the relationship between the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington,” Guthrie added. “After leaving politics, David remained an engaged and active citizen, frequently writing to my office and commenting on local news.”
Birtwistle first ran for council in 1997 to represent Ward 4, but he finished sixth out of eight candidates. In 2000 though, he won the second seat in Ward 4 behind long-time councillor Gloria Kovach, and finished nearly 10 points ahead of his nearest competitor. Birtwhistle was re-elected handily in 2003, but he finished in last place in 2006 when he was swept out of office with seven other council colleagues including then-Mayor Kate Quarrie.
Birstwistle tried to run for mayor himself in 2010, but lost to the incumbent Karen Farbridge by 14 points.
“There is no doubt that David cared deeply for Ward 4 and the entire city,” added Guthrie, who would later take the seat Birtwistle once held before graduating to mayor in 2014. “His service as a councillor representing Ward 4, and the issues he championed at the Council horseshoe, made a significant positive contribution to our city.”
After 2010, Birtwistle remained active in local politics at all levels. He was part of a group started by Gerry Barker in 2014 called Grassroots Guelph, and he was a campaign volunteer on the Conservative campaign of Marty Burke in 2011, which resulted in him being called as a witness in the trial of Michael Sona in 2014.
Burtwistle is the second former member of Guelph city council to pass away this year after former Ward Councillor Ken Hammill who served on the horseshoe for 29 years. Hammill passed away in February.