Longtime Raleigh City Councilor Thomas Crowder died on Tuesday from complications of testicular cancer. He was 58.
As the Record’s city hall reporter for more than three years, I spent many long days in the same room as Crowder, though we rarely ever shared a word outside the usual polite pleasantries.
Crowder, I quickly learned, was a force on the City Council, where he had been serving on behalf of District D since 2003. He resigned in September after announcing he had exhausted all treatment options for the disease he was diagnosed with in 2013.
His wife Kay will finish his term.
To say that Crowder loved this city is an understatement. He seemed to live, breathe and bleed Raleigh. His passion for this town and his constituents is undeniable.
Most politicians talk about their constituents with a noticeable detachment, as though they know deep down they only represent the fraction of people that showed up to vote on Election Day.
Crowder was different. Crowder spoke about, and represented, his constituents as though he would walk through a ring of fire if that’s what they wanted. They elected him to this office and he would represent their interests to the bitter end.
Sometimes, though, this made him unpopular and controversial. Crowder, some might remember, was an outspoken critic of food trucks because brick-and-mortar businesses feared an uneven playing field. Residents were afraid of food trucks parked outside their homes until all hours of the night.
I don’t bring up these moments to sour or tarnish his memory, but to show that he was not afraid to fight for the people that he represented. He was not afraid to question or challenge other councilors or city staff to ensure that he reached an outcome that addressed their concerns.
I didn’t always agree with Crowder’s positions, but I had great respect for this man who took his oath of office to heart with such fervor.
He was keenly aware of the issues that plagued his district and talked often about how each Council decision would affect his constituents’ quality of life as well as its impact on Raleigh’s future.
Crowder played an integral role in this city’s revitalization from one that was deserted after quitting time, to one that is consistently ranked on the latest “best city to” list.
I may have missed the development of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, but I suspect he tackled that duty with the same diligence as the Unified Development Ordinance. Much to the sometimes-visible frustration of city staff and other Councilors, he carefully examined and considered each line of that document. Sometimes this caused long and heavy debates, but Crowder wanted to get it right because he wanted it to be perfect for the people of Raleigh.
Everything he did was for this city and the people that elected him to represent their best interests.
At a time when politicians are at their most unpopular, most despised, and most untrusted, residents throughout Raleigh kept their porch lights lit on Tuesday night in honor a man that helped bring a tide of great change to an amazing and wonderful city.