Longtime Clawson City Councilman Tom Palmer dies

Palmer, 71, was running for re-election

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published November 5, 2013


City Councilman Tom Palmer, who served four decades on council and was in the midst of running to be re-elected, died Nov. 3 at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, his wife, Jean Palmer, confirmed with C & G Newspapers.

Tom Palmer had been a resident of Clawson for 47 years and served as a councilman since 1973.

He and Jean Palmer had been married for 48 years.

“We lost a good man,” said Howie Airriess, the council’s current mayor pro tem and a longtime friend of the Palmer family. “He was one hell of a councilman and a great person. I love him to death.”

With his passing, council candidates Jim Horton and Deborah Wooley essentially are running unopposed.

City Clerk Machele Kukuk said that according to state law, people cannot vote for a deceased candidate, but the votes Nov. 5 will be tallied normally until the Oakland County Board of Canvassers disqualifies all votes for Tom Palmer.

“It won’t be until the election is certified when they declare the winners,” Kukuk said.

In addition to his wife, Tom Palmer is survived by two sons, John, 53, and Brian, 47, and three grandchildren.

Tom Palmer, his wife said, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, though it is not certain if that was the cause of his death.

“He’s had one hell of a fight,” Airriess said. “Almost a year he was a fighting, and he did a fine job during it.”

Jean Palmer said he had been taken to the hospital two weeks ago after suffering severe chest pains. A CT scan revealed blood clots in one of his lungs.

She said his health degraded over the next two weeks.

The day prior to his death, he was transferred to Beaumont hospice, where he died, Jean Palmer said.

She said she was very proud of her husband and the work he did for the city.

“Clawson was No. 1 in his book,” she said.

She described him as a tough decision-maker.

“It’s black or it’s white,” she said, “And you might not like his decision, but it was right for the community and not necessarily right for an individual.”

Joan Horton, the Downtown Development Authority director, agreed with her assessment, describing Tom Palmer as fair and open with his opinions.

“You knew exactly where you stood with Tom,” Horton said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

She pointed toward the pedestrian islands that the city will be constructing next year downtown as an example.

Tom Palmer initially was against the project until Horton’s final presentation to the council over the summer. Horton said because of it, he became a supporter of the project.

“Then you knew, wow, we’ve made our case because Tom Palmer changed his mind,” she recalled.

Horton added that whenever Tom Palmer stopped by City Hall, he was always willing to talk about the city and offer his advice.

“If you saw Tom, you could always say, ‘Do you have a minute? I’d like to run something by you. What’s your take on this,’” Horton said. “He was a good sounding board.”

When Tom Palmer filed in August to run for City Council despite his diagnosis, Airriess said he wasn’t surprised at the decision.

“He was feeling really good,” he said. “It was just the last two weeks that he started going down.”

Airriess said being councilman was what he truly wanted to do.

“It was his life’s ambition,” Airriess said.

In one of his final public appearances during a Sept. 23 League of Women Voters candidate forum, Tom Palmer vocalized his gratitude for being able to serve the city.

“I’ve had the privilege and the honor of serving this community for many, many years,” he said during the forum’s closing statements. “I’d like to continue that for four more years.

“The most important thing is to vote,” he added. “Whether you vote for me or whomever, exercise your right and vote.”