Victoria Hall was crammed recently with members, former members and guests who came to the Rotary Club of Westmount Wednesday luncheon to hear former Mayor Peter Trent candidly discuss his 37 years of service in municipal politics for the City of Westmount. Unbeknownst to Trent, Club President Peter Starr would begin the event with the presentation of the Paul Harris Fellow Sapphire pin, the most distinguished recognition Rotary can bestow on a Rotarian or member of the community. The recognition can only be given to a person who is already a Paul Harris fellow. In 2005 the Club pinned Mayor Trent in recognition of “his exceptional willingness to support the community.”
Trent’s talk was about how, over 37 years, 23 1/2 of which he served as mayor, he actually got things done, a career based on solutions, and loyalty to people, citizens, and ideas. And how he fought forced mergers and worked full time and pro bono as a private citizen, initially alone, to make demergers a reality. That way of doing and being mayor earned him the innocuous title of Mr. Clean for standing up to corruption.
It all began in 1980 when he tried to stop houses being built on the front lawn of Braemar, the third oldest house in Westmount built in 1847 on The Boulevard. That commitment to community led to him to being elected a councilor from 1983 to 1987. After taking a few years to attend to business activities, he returned in 1990. The following year former May Cutler enthusiastically suggested he run for mayor. The rest is history until he was de-elected by the municipal mergers in 2002.
Trent fought for three years for de-mergers and ultimately with his loyal team won the city and many of its services back at the beginning of 2006. He was reelected mayor in 2009 and served without opposition until he stepped down in April. “Once I decided not to run in November, I could no longer maintain my habitual enthusiasm. I wanted no truck with being a lame duck. So I’m bowing out now,” he said in an interview published in the Montreal Gazette shortly after stepping down.
Trent’s book The Merger Delusion, that is about that merger-demerger period in Montreal. was published in the fall of 2012 by Mc Gill-Queen’s University Press and was shortlisted for the 2012 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.