>Ron Gant was always a powerful presence on the Albion City Council, never afraid to speak his mind.
But on Monday, he could hardly speak at all.
The meeting marked the 76-year-old’s final time representing the first precinct after 32 years. He exited with a ceremony that was fitting of his lasting influence.
He was presented with certificates of appreciation from the city of Albion and from U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer’s office, as well as a framed token of gratitude signed by state Sen. Mike Nofs and state Rep. Kate Segal.
Longtime Albion resident Robina Quale Leach said Gant epitomizes what it means to be committed to the well-being of one’s hometown. She called him “The Community Grandfather.”
And as a final gesture, the council announced it was ceremonially changing the name of Arthur Street to Ron Gant Lane.
“I was totally shocked. That’s when I started seeing a few tears and my eyes were getting a little water, but I guess it was more pride and appreciation,” Gant said.
Gant said when he first joined the council in 1974, he “never had the slightest dream” he would remain on a member this long.
The first time Gant ran for a seat on the council he lost by two votes and demanded a recount, insisting a mistake might have been made.
Soon after, it was confirmed that he lost by two votes.
One term later he was elected, and his only interruption in service was when he ran for mayor and lost, forfeiting the term that followed.
Mayor Joe Domingo described Gant as a “down-to-earth, honest” person who has thrived on making community connections as long as he can remember.
Domingo’s relationship with Gant goes back several decades, to seventh-grade woodshop class — one of Gant’s many assignments in his 32 years as a teacher for Albion Public Schools.
“He was very strict, but he was fun,” Domingo said. “It was actually my first year of woodshop. … he taught us a lot, and I really enjoyed it.”
Gant also made an impact volunteering through his church, tirelessly advocating for the Albion Interfaith Ministries and working with the county’s Substance Abuse Council.
But he said some of the “less important things” are among his fondest memories.
“I initiated a smoking ban in the council chamber at a time when you could smoke anytime, anywhere,” he said. “You would go home from a council meeting and just reek with smoke, and it was one of the biggest changes I initiated.”
Gant said he plans on getting involved again with Albion Public Schools in a mentorship role so he can counsel troubled youth.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Dec. 9, 2010