The only Mayor that many Aikenites have ever known will preside over the opening of his last City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 23. After gaveling the meeting to order, Mayor Fred Cavanaugh will call for approval of the minutes of the Nov. 9 meeting and then introduce City Clerk Sara Ridout for the purpose of swearing in Aiken’s next mayor.
Aiken has had only two top political leaders in the past 58 years. H. Odell Weeks served continuously from 1957 through 1991. Mayor Weeks also served as mayor during two earlier terms, for a total of 40 years. Fred Cavanaugh was first elected to City Council in 1985. He then succeeded Mayor Weeks in 1991 and has been re-elected every four years for the past six terms.
Fred Cavanaugh moved to Aiken as a 15-year-old high school sophomore from Richmond, Va. in 1953. He was a member of the “new” Aiken High School’s first graduating class in 1955.
His family, Fred, Sr., (an SRP engineer), mother Mary and three sisters, Maryanne, Judy and Tish, first moved into Crosland Park and within a year had taken up the family’s permanent residence on Brandy Road.
Virginia Military Institute awarded him a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a commission as a 1st. Lt. in the U.S. Air Force. After three years of active duty and his honorable discharge, Fred returned to Aiken. He worked the next 30 years with DuPont and six more with Westinghouse.
Fred Cavanaugh is a model public servant. His passion has been giving the citizens of Aiken the finest, most thoughtful, creative and honest service that they could possibly receive. It has been an honor to have Fred as a colleague. Every time I met with him, I ended up being inspired to go back to Charleston and try to do a better job. – Charleston Mayor Joe Riley
Upon returning, Fred took the chance on a blind date with Lee Quinn and 40 years later Lee and Fred, parents of two young men, Alex and Brian, are retiring together to live a more tranquil existence without regular council meetings and unscheduled late-night calls from the news media!
Fred and the Council members he worked with, faced dozens of tough decisions. He says he wants to remember the positive achievements, such as his establishment of Aiken as a Community of Character, the first of many in South Carolina, Aiken’s selection as an All-America City in 1997, his selection as the 2004 Aiken Chamber of Commerce Man of The Year, his two-year presidency of The Municipal Association of South Carolina and Aiken’s unmatched string of 12-straight Municipal Cup victories. Also during his tenure, the City of Aiken revitalized several neighborhoods, became debt free, a rare status for any level of government, and has not increased the tax millage rate for 26 years.
Fred and Lee are members of Grace Church where he has served as an Elder and Sunday School Teacher. He is a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, American Legion, the Marine Corps League, the Aiken Rotary Club and the SRS Retiree Association.
Fred gives his priorities in life as: service to God, his family, and his commitment to serving as mayor of all of the citizens of Aiken.
In a quarter of a century of service, Fred has made many, many friends. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley sent his thoughts: “Fred Cavanaugh is a model public servant. His passion has been giving the citizens of Aiken the finest, most thoughtful, creative and honest service that they could possibly receive. It has been an honor to have Fred as a colleague. Every time I met with him, I ended up being inspired to go back to Charleston and try to do a better job.”
Words of praise came from Miriam Hair, executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina: “During these years of public service, Fred has served the people of Aiken with integrity, character, passion, compassion and creativity, while keeping his focus always on what is best for them. Mayor Cavanaugh has always listened to every side of an issue with an open heart, which I feel is one of the essential characteristics of a ‘true’ leader.”
City Clerk Sara Ridout who has kept the desks straight for both mayors Cavanaugh and Weeks and seven city managers, remembers, “Mayor Cavanaugh is a man of many fine character traits. He is a kind and considerate person who gives a lot of thought to matters and issues concerning the future of the city he loves.”
His wife Lee says of Fred: “It has been a privilege being by Fred’s side as he has served as Mayor for the past 24 years. Fred has tirelessly served his community with hard work, honesty, integrity, and the patience of Job! I believe one of Fred’s finest attributes is the gift of listening to others with a thoughtful and measured response. He always credits any good and positive changes in Aiken to the efforts of an amazing city staff, fine employees, talented volunteers and the excellent caliber of our city council members. To me, Fred will always be the consummate Virginia gentleman.”