Sturgeon County’s first itinerant mayor has died

Sturgeon County leaders paused this week to acknowledge the life of a former mayor who served nearly 20 years on the county council.

Former Sturgeon County Mayor Lawrence Alvin Kluth died Sept. 12 in Valley View Heath Center at the age of 85.

The Sturgeon County Council held a minute’s silence in honor of Kluth at its meeting on Tuesday, September 13th.

In an interview, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw praised Kluth for his commitment to public service.

“Twenty years, I mean, I’ve been doing this for a little over five years. It’s a tremendous amount of work, so I appreciate anyone who has the perseverance to serve the public for over 20 years.”

father, teacher, friend

His son and former Sturgeon County Councilman David Kluth said Kluth was a lifelong resident of Sturgeon County and grew up on a family farm near Alcomdale. He was an avid baseball player who played for teams in Alcomdale and Morinville in his younger days, playing hockey and coaching it for his kids.

Former Sturgeon County Mayor Donald Rigney said he first met Cloth on the council in the early 2000s and considered him a mentor and father figure. He was described as a selfless, action-oriented man who was often the last to sleep and the first to get up.

“He terrified a lot of people because he was a huge guy with a strong voice,” said Rainey.

David said Kluth had a strong presence and could take over a room as soon as he walked into it. A stern word and a look from him were all it took for his children to listen.

But behind it all, he was probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met,” David said.

Outside of work, David said his father was an avid fisherman and fisherman—so much so that some joke that the fish in Eyl Lake are safe now that he’s no longer around. Kluth also survived a large number of accidents in his life, including one in which he drove a truck loaded with timber off a small cliff near Onway and drove away without a scratch.

“I think my dad had more than one cat living,” David said.

David said his father was so concerned about the community that he would raise money as an auction at every turkey dinner at Mearns/Alcomdale.

“It was all about the community, not itself.”

Counsellor, Mayor

Cloth was first elected to Sturgeon County Council in 1965 and served for 16 years, serving as county riff from 1970 to 1971. He returned to council in 2002 to serve for two years as the first directly elected mayor. (Sturgeon County Council members previously chose one of them to be mayor.)

“He was once told, ‘You want to complain about something, young man,’ said David, ‘maybe you should give your name and do something about it,’ and he did.”

Kluth has served on a long list of boards and committees, including the Edmonton Regional Planning Commission (a predecessor to the Edmonton Metropolitan District Council), the Metis Settlement Appeals Court, and the County Agricultural Services Board, David said. He also ran for MLA in the 1970s.

Rainey said Cloth played a key role in moving a major nitrogen plant to Sturgeon County in the late 1960s. Now owned by Nutrien, this factory accounted for more than half of the county’s taxes for many years, and many residents employed it. Kluth also worked closely with Rigney and Ian MacGregor of North West Upgrading to build the Sturgeon refinery.

David said his father spent most of his retirement ice fishing with Simon in a lakeside shack. Kluth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around 2014 and has spent the past five years at Valley View Care Center.

Kluth is survived by his wife, Simon, and children David, Tracy, Brad, Lyle, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. His funeral was arranged with the publication of this story. In lieu of flowers, the family asked well-wishers for a donation to the Canadian Alzheimer’s Association.

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