ST. GEORGE — Former Hurricane Mayor Tom Hirschi, who served as the city’s mayor for three-terms, died Monday due to natural causes. He was in his late-70s.
Hirschi was elected in 2002 and served until 2014, having decided to not seek a fourth term as the city’s chief executive. In a December 2013 interview with St. George News, Hirschi said it was “a good time to hit the road.”
Having been in office for three-terms, Hirschi is counted as Hurricane’s longest served mayor so far.
Prior to serving as that capacity, Hirschi served on the Hurricane City Council for two years before winning his first term as mayor. Before then, he was a member of the city’s planning commission for nine years and was also on the power board for three years.
Hirschi’s venture into the public eye – which lasted for over 40 years – started at age 17 when he became the coach of a little league team and went on the serve as the president of the city’s little league association. He also drove a school bus for over 30 years.
Outside of public office, Hirschi was a barber who ran “Tom’s Clip Joint” where citizens sometimes came to complain about city issues, which is something he welcomed, he said in the 2013 interview.
“He cut my hair,” Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist said Tuesday. “It was fun to chat with him. It was like being in Mayberry 50 years ago.”
Almquist said his relationship with Hirschi was more through their shared political positions than personal. That said, he also considered Hirschi to have been a great mentor for his helping him better understand the working relationships between the County Commission and city mayors.
“He was kind enough to take me in when I was a new commissioner and let me know what issues were facing Hurricane,” he said. “He was definitely a great man.”
Hirschi was a Hurricane native and loved his town, Hurricane City Council member Nanette Billings said Tuesday. Billings, who is also Hirschi’s niece, is campaigning to be Hurricane’s next mayor. In a recent Facebook post, she said he was a big inspiration in getting her to run for the mayor’s seat.
“I appreciate his love and support and was a big part of why I ran for city council and now for Mayor,” she said in the post.
Those who knew Hirschi also said his love for his hometown led to his sharing it with others.
“He can’t stop bragging about Hurricane everywhere he goes,” former Hurricane City Council member Mike Jensen said in 2013, joking that it would take Hirschi 10 hours to get to Salt Lake City because he would tell people about the town at every stop along the way.
When on the verge of leaving office in December 2013, Hirschi highlighted some of the items he was proud to have accomplished while mayor.
Chief among those accomplishments was the acquisition of the old elementary building and the auditorium across the street from it, which were turned into the city’s community center and led to the ramping up of the city’s recreation program. Hirschi said that he and the council were ridiculed by some for purchasing the building but that many acquiesced later on saying they were wrong.
Hirschi was also proud of the development of the city’s ATV trails which helped create the Tri-State ATV Jamboree in 2004. He was also happy to be able to bring company’s like Orgill to Hurricane as well. Improvements made to State Street (state Route 9) through Hurricane was also listed as a highlight of the mayor’s tenure.
If there was something the former mayor wanted to see improved, it was to see more citizens taking an active role in the community. City Council meetings often have few attendees who remain informed of what the city is doing, and that needed to change, Hirschi said.
“People need to take responsibility and do a few things for themselves,” he said. “We’ve developed into an entitlement society.”
After leaving office, Hirschi also retired as a barber and largely left the public eye. Hirschi and his wife would go on to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Martin’s Cove, a spot along the Mormon Trail in Wyoming.
Billings said as he grew older, her uncle began to experience health issues related to his kidneys and age. When she saw him last, she said he appeared to be doing well, yet family suspected he may pass away soon.
“He was doing well,” Billings said, “but we knew he wouldn’t last forever.”
Hirschi’s death is attributed to natural causes, she said.
During his 2013 interview, Hirschi said he’s hadn’t given much thought to the legacy he left behind and said he really didn’t deserve any praise for anything he had done as mayor.
“I hope people will feel I’ve been fair,” he said. “I don’t deserve any accolades.”
St. George News columnist Reuben Wadsworth contributed to this article.
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