CATHEDRAL CITY – Mayor Gregory S. Pettis, 63, a longtime political fixture in Democratic politics, died about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Eisenhower Health where he had been hospitalized since Jan. 9 following a City Council meeting.

“It’s a shock, an absolute shock,” said Pastor Lee Ireland of Presbyterian Community Church Cathedral City. “It’s an absolute shock to us all. We are here sitting at Rotary reminiscing about Greg wondering how anyone can fill his shoes.”

The church is affectionately called “the church in the Cove.” It is the church Mayor Pettis attended.

Mayor Pettis was taken to Eisenhower last week where he was being treated for complications due to weight-loss surgery he had in November at Riverside Community Hospital.

He was Cathedral City’s first openly gay mayor. He was sworn in as mayor on Dec. 10, 2018.

Mayor Pettis was born and raised in Duarte, Calif., and has lived in Cathedral City since 1979. After nearly 15 years in the hospitality industry, he ran for and won a seat on the City Council in 1994.

Calling him a fierce advocate for his constituents, Cathedral City Communications Director Chris Parman said in a News Release that, “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.”

In a telephone call with Uken Report, Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone, said the interview was taking place under “horrific circumstances.” Mayor Pettis worked for Stone for about a year in 2014-15.

Both took grief from their respective parties — Stone for hiring a Democrat and Pettis for working for a Republican. Both shook it off and carried on.

“I was proud to have him on my staff,” Stone said.

Pettis played a pivotal role in helping Stone meet leaders of the LGBTQ community to better understand their concerns and the issues they cared about, including gay marriage. Stone said he evolved because of Mayor Pettis.

“He was the poster child for public service,” Stone said. “It is a loss for the entire county. He was so good at helping people.”

They first got to know each other when Pettis was elected to the Cathedral City Council. Stone was on the Temecula City Council.

“When we really became friends was when Greg became president of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG),” Stone said. “Greg was like a mini Governor of California because the organization is so massive.”

SCAG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) of six of the ten counties in Southern California, serving Imperial CountyLos Angeles CountyOrange CountyRiverside CountySan Bernardino County, and Ventura County.

Since he was first sworn in to office, Pettis was been instrumental in helping build an economically vibrant community with strong neighborhoods. He also amassed a long list of legislative accomplishments including:

  • Creating a first-time homebuyer program
  • Instituting the Safe Routes to School program
  • Working with police and social service agencies to combat the methamphetamine epidemic
  • Completing Cathedral City’s library
  • Bringing Big League Dreams to town
  • Revitalizing Cathedral City’s downtown core
  • Founder of the popular Rotary Club’s Healing Field program
  • Founder of the community’s Sister Program with the Mexican city of Tequila, Jalisco

In addition to his duties as a Councilmember, Mayor Pettis represented Cathedral City and the Coachella Valley on the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Associations of Governments and both the National and California League of Cities Board of Directors.

Professionally he was the Managing Director of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability at California State University, San Bernardino and is a licensed Realtor©. Within the community he had served as the executive director of the Palm Springs Youth Center, President of Cathedral City’s Rotary Club and Desert Business Association and board member of United Cerebral Palsy of the Desert and the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy.

Mayor Pettis received a BA from Azusa Pacific University, a Masters in Business Administration from University of Phoenix and also a Senior Executive Program in State and Local Government from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.