Former City of Aiken Mayor, Fred Cavanaugh, passed away on December 28, 2022. Cavanaugh served as Mayor of Aiken for 24 years before he retired in 2015. He was first elected to City Council in 1985 before serving as mayor pro-tempore and was elected mayor in 1991.
During his mayoral tenure, Cavanaugh had many notable accomplishments including guiding the City through two decades of growth and development, while maintaining Aiken’s uniqueness. Mayor Cavanaugh often noted that he was most proud of the Character First initiative that he was instrumental in bringing to the City. The program recognizes positive character traits such as sincerity, forgiveness, and discretion; banners are often seen throughout downtown and City parks highlighting the value of these traits. The City earned the South Carolina Municipal Association’s highest award for the Character Initiative in 2000. Mayor Cavanaugh also led Aiken as it was designated as an All-America City in 1997. Cavanaugh was also recognized for his leadership in neighborhood revitalization and for no increase in the tax millage rate during his tenure as Mayor. Mayor Cavanaugh served as president of the Municipal Association of South Carolina from 2007-2008.
Councilwoman Lessie Price said, “I served with Mayor Cavanaugh for 28 years and never had an unpleasant moment with him. I also worked with him at Savannah River Site and he transferred his integrity from the workplace to governing. We made many strides under his leadership. With his advocacy for the Capital Projects Sales Tax and the Hospitality Tax, our community saw many improvements to our quality of life. He was also a champion for improvements to the entire City, including the Northside and the potential of our Aiken Regional Airport. Mayor Cavanaugh was a person of vision and it was reflected in the many innovations and recognitions with multiple Municipal Achievement Awards. On a personal note, he was close to my family and regularly asked about my children. He was a God-fearing man whose legacy will continue to live on.”
Mayor Cavanaugh moved to Aiken from Richmond, Virginia in 1953. After graduating from Virginia Military Institute and serving three years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, he returned to Aiken. Cavanaugh worked at Savannah River Site for DuPont and Westinghouse. He and his wife, Lee, have two sons, Alex and Brian.
Mayor Rick Osbon, who succeeded Cavanaugh as mayor in 2015, noted that “Aiken has lost a friend and a champion in Mayor Fred Cavanaugh. The impact the Mayor had on our City will be recognized for generations to come. His leadership and ability to bring people together made him a special person. He was a kind and quiet leader whose words carried much weight and were respected by all. His legacy will forever be remembered through the Character First initiative and Aiken’s recognition as an All-America City. He was a mentor to me and I will always be grateful for his friendship. The City of Aiken mourns his loss and sends condolences and prayers to the Cavanaugh family.”
Funeral arrangements are will be announced at a later date by George Funeral Home.
For more information, please contact Mary Tilton, Assistant City Manager.