GENEVA – When Paul DesCoteaux served as an alderman of Geneva’s 5th Ward, any spending plan would prompt his attention.
DesCoteaux’s votes over 21 years on the city council reflected his stance as a budget hawk. In 2007, he voted against increasing the city’s sales tax. In 2005, he objected to the cost of a new water treatment plant and its contract award without competitive bidding.
“The water treatment plant should not be a Taj Mahal,” DesCoteaux said at the time.
DesCoteaux, 83, died Wednesday at Arden Courts in Geneva, of a stroke-related illness, said his daughter, Andrea DesCoteaux of Geneva.
“He was honest and plain-speaking,” Andrea DesCoteaux said. “He came from very humble beginnings, living in a tenement outside Boston. He never forgot where he came from, and that was part of his hawkish attitude.”
Fourth Ward Alderman Dorothy Flanagan, who was also DesCoteaux’s friend, said DesCoteaux just wanted to get the best deal for the city.
“He was a very frugal individual – with city coffers and his own money,” Flanagan said. “He wanted the city to spend money wisely.”
DesCoteaux chose not to seek another term in 2009 when he was 80. DesCoteaux was known for co-founding the Geneva Beautification Committee and volunteering to plant flowers in the city’s downtown. He also served as interim mayor for nearly a year from 1996 to 1997 after the death of Mayor Bill Ottillie.
“He will be sadly missed,” former 3rd Ward Alderman Ray Pawlak said. “He will be missed as a mentor and a great friend. What people need to know was behind him was an even greater family. As great as he was, his wife and kids were what his inspiration was.”
Mayor Kevin Burns said the city’s flags were set at half-staff in honor of DesCoteaux.
“Mr. DesCoteaux was indeed, one of a kind,” Burns said. “He had two distinct sides. One was the compassionate crusader while on the city council and two, the consummate husband, father and grandfather. And I was privileged to benefit from both.”
Burns said they used to get into heated arguments based on principle, then after the meeting, they’d go to DesCoteaux’s house and socialize.
“The conversation always turned to family, friends, and the most important issue of all was the community,” Burns said. “That is where you got to know the true Paul DesCoteaux. He was a fearsome crusader for his principles, but the softest and most gentle person ever.”
Andrea DesCoteaux said her father had a stroke in November 2009, which left him unable to speak. He lived at Arden Courts for 18 months.
“Even at Arden Courts, we would go for a walk and he would stop and point and have me pull a weed,” his daughter said.
“He was a great teacher,” she said. “He spent a lot of time pushing us to excel in school to learn and to question and wanted us to be lifelong learners. Both parents taught us to give back to our community and back to our fellow man.”