Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Madisonville Library Named After Gitz

The new library in Madisonville was named after longtime mayor Peter L. "Pete" Gitz Wednesday afternoon, with dozens of parishwide public officials, library officials, family, friends and community well-wishers on hand for the event. 

Gitz, 82, (third from right) enjoyed the special recognition, greeting his longtime friends and former council members, as well as state representatives and Madisonville business people. Kelly LaRocca, St. Tammany Parish Library Assistant Director, welcomed the crowd and introduced the special guests. Remarks were given by Mayor Jean Pelloat of Madisonville, and La. State Representative Reid Falconer. Among those present were Mayor Mike Cooper of Covington, St.Tammany Parish Councilman Steve Stefancik, Superintendent of Schools Trey Folse and St. Tammany Parish Assessor Louis Fitzmorris.

Gitz first took office in 1977, and he left office in 2016 after 40 years (ten terms) as mayor of the small Tchefuncte River town.  The Madisonville branch library was named for him due to his help in getting the new library built to replace a temporary library. The town donated the acre and a half site for the building. 

Hurricane Katrina had damaged the town's library on Cedar Street, so a temporary one was located out on La. 22. However, the new 15,000 square foot library is located on Main Street right across from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum.

While state law prohibits public buildings from being named after living persons, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister was successful in getting an exception of that policy through a bill introduced by State Rep. Reid Falconer, standing at right, who was on hand for the dedication ceremonies on Wednesday.

During the four decades Gitz served as the town's mayor, significant accomplishments included a concrete bulkhead along the Tchefuncte River, the construction of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum building, fishing piers and shelters at the end of Lake Road, street improvements, and meeting the challenges of rapid growth in the Madisonville area. The coming of the annual Wooden Boat Festival was another big event, as well as the well-publicized trial of the rooster Reveille who had been charged with disturbing the peace. The rooster thus became the town mascot.

Prior to his unexpected promotion to the mayorship, Gitz was a supervisor for Prestressed Concrete Products in Mandeville, taking part in the building of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and other bridge projects. "He knows every piece and part that went into the building of the causeway," said his son. He worked there for 26 years, in addition to having a large farm with 300 head of cattle.

 Mayor Peter Gitz

People eventually persuaded him to run for town council, and while he didn't do any campaigning, he won anyway. He became mayor pro tem and then, shortly afterwards, Mayor John Frere had to resign early due to illness and Gitz took over the seat. The next election, he threw his hat into the ring and won the mayor's office on his own.

Polly Anderson, at left, presents a framed map to Mayor Gitz

Not only did the year 1976 see him become an elected official, but he also took over operation of the Badeaux's Hamburger Drive-in with locations in Madisonville and Covington beginning that year. He ran that restaurant for more than 30 years.  His son would recall him coming home from work at Prestressed, feeding the cattle, then going to the hamburger stand in the evening. After cleaning up after closing, he would go to the town hall to get some things done there. "Then when he got home, people would call with their problems knowing that he was up at midnight," the younger Gitz said. "He didn't get much sleep."

Photographs of the event from Facebook...

Gitz, at right, speaking at a Maritime Museum event, with Don Aucoin, left

In 2013 Gitz was recognized for his work in building the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. 
CLICK HERE for more information about that event.

Donation Ceremony of the Civil War Cannons at Madisonville Town Hall

The large oak tree in front of the old town hall building, now the Madisonville museum, was made a member of the Live Oak Society and was named after Peter Gitz. 

See also:

The Madisonville Library in the 1970's

Morning Advocate Article about Peter Gitz

Rep. Reid Falconer Introduces Re-naming Bill