WATERVILLE — Friends and family members on Wednesday were remembering the city’s 40th mayor, Paul R. LaVerdiere, who died Monday night at 82.

LaVerdiere, a two-term Republican mayor who served from 1977 to 1981, also was a member of the Waterville Board of Education from 1971 to 1974 and served on many boards and committees throughout his life.

Waterville’s 40th mayor, Paul R. LaVerdiere, died Monday night at 82. Laverdiere, shown here on July 31, 1981, was a two-term Republican mayor who served from 1977 to 1981. File photo

LaVerdiere had suffered declining health over the past few years, and the last year was difficult for him physically, according to his daughter, Susan LaVerdiere Gauthier, who said her father died at his longtime Johnson Heights home.

“He was just such a people person and always mindful of what was going on in the city and wanted the best for it,” Gauthier said. “That was just his state of mind, all the time.”

Governor Paul LePage said Wednesday that LaVerdiere was a good mentor throughout the time LePage was mayor of Waterville, as well as during his governorship.

“He’s the one who gave me the idea of having office hours on weekends,” LePage said in a phone interview. “He said, ‘You get a lot through your staff, but you get more through the people on the street.'”

LePage said he took LaVerdiere’s advice and met with residents every Saturday in his office at City Hall when he was mayor of Waterville. LaVerdiere was always the first person to show up and brought LePage a cup of coffee and they sat and chatted 15 to 20 minutes. LePage said LaVerdiere’s idea of talking directly with the people was sound advice.

“It is the best way you can break down bureaucracy. He was absolutely right,” he said.

City Manager Michael Roy said Wednesday he knew LaVerdiere well and his death is a big loss to the city.

“It’s a big loss to his family and to the city because he always showed a sincere interest in what was going on and was always very supportive,” Roy said. “His involvement and interest — he always kept track of what was going on. He was good-natured and had a very good sense of humor.”

Roy said LaVerdiere set a good example during his two terms as mayor, epitomizing what it means to be bipartisan.

“It was a time when both parties worked together for the benefit of the city,” he said.

LaVerdiere was sworn in as mayor in December 1977 after defeating his Democratic opponent Burton G. Shiro, 3,298-2,064, according to Morning Sentinel news accounts. LaVerdiere was 41 and the first Republican mayor to be elected in eight years, succeeding Mayor Richard J. “Spike” Carey.

LaVerdiere attended Coburn Classical Institute and earned a bachelor’s degree from Colby College. He worked as director of the Economic Resources Council of Maine, was a founder of Canal Bank, was a member of the Waterville Elks Lodge, was president of both the Waterville Exchange Club and the Downeast Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis, and helped incorporate Waterville Savings Bank. Before and after he was mayor, he worked for GHM Insurance Agency downtown.

Bill Mitchell, owner of GHM, said Wednesday that he last saw LaVerdiere several months ago and they had a nice conversation and reminisced about when LaVerdiere worked at GHM with Mitchell’s late father, Paul. The LaVerdiere and Mitchell families had a long-term, lifetime relationship.

“Paul obviously served as mayor of the city of Waterville successfully,” Mitchell said. “He was a strong leader — a real leader and overall successful businessman.”

Throughout his career in the insurance industry, LaVerdiere was an expert in complex business insurance matters, always putting his customers first, according to Mitchell.

Paul R. LaVerdiere Contributed photo

Early in his career, LaVerdiere was vice president of LaVerdiere’s Super Drug Stores, a business started by his father, Evariste, which had more than 60 stores in Maine and New Hampshire. Paul LaVerdiere also owned a club in the lower level of the former Jefferson Hotel, which later was known as The Manor on College Avenue.

“He was in a jazz band, The Dappers,” said Gauthier, his daughter. “He was an excellent saxophonist.”

LaVerdiere and his wife, Charlene, who died in 2008, were longtime members of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church on Front Street. His wake will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at Gallant Funeral Home, at 10 Elm St. in Waterville. A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church, with a reception to follow in the parish hall.

Gauthier, the youngest of LaVerdiere’s four children, including Bruce LaVerdiere and Audrey LaVerdiere Yotides, both of Oakland, and Scott LaVerdiere, of Waterville, said her father will be sadly missed.

“He was loved and he was a great communicator and got along with just about everybody,” she said. “He was a great grandfather. He has eight grandchildren and he was absolutely wonderful to them and completely loved and spoiled them. They lit up his life.”

Gauthier recalled fondly that when she and her siblings were young and vacationing with their parents, her father would embarrass them by talking to people from out-of-state and demonstrating to them how to crack open and eat a lobster.

“That was our plight that we had to endure,” she said.

In announcing in late July 1981 that he would not seek a third term as mayor, LaVerdiere said he was particularly proud of the city’s efforts in collecting more than $500,000 in back taxes, attracting new business and industry, establishing a close working relationship with current businesses, appointing the city’s first full-time city solicitor and acquiring more than $1.5 million for continuation and expansion of economic development efforts.

“I urge you to continue to remember that your loyalties must be first and foremost to the city we all love so well,” he was quoted in the Morning Sentinel as saying.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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