Pat Rose

Charles Allen "Pat" Rose, a native of Orlando, Florida, who served two terms as Chattanooga mayor and more than two decades as a public servant, died Monday at the age of 91.

"Pat was one of the leading changemakers in Chattanooga's recent history," said Ron Littlefield, another former mayor, who served from 2005-13.

An avid tennis player and an advocate as mayor for the redevelopment of Chattanooga's central business district, Rose also witnessed the opening of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, the enlargement of Tennessee Valley Authority offices downtown and the expansion of city sewers as well as the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Plant.

Additionally, he pushed for the construction of the C.B. Robinson Bridge across the Tennessee River.

Littlefield said Rose played a key role in making the city what it is today. In the 1980s, the Lyndhurst Foundation provided Chattanooga with the funding to send two people on a European excursion with delegations from other American cities, Littlefield said.

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Rose selected Littlefield, then a city employee, to accompany him. They traveled to hot spots like Paris and Berlin, but on that trip they also met William Hudnut, who was at the time mayor of Indianapolis.

"We were interested in the fact that Indianapolis had transformed itself just from a city that some people jokingly referred to as 'India-no-place' to a city that was on everyone's list as an up-and-coming community," Littlefield said.

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Staff Photo / The Walnut Street Bridge turns 120. Living Chattanooga mayors from the bridges' past show up for the 120-year celebration in 2011. From left are Pat Rose, Gene Roberts, Ron Littlefield and Jim Coppinger.

After Rose and Littlefield returned from Europe, the city of Chattanooga took 52 people to Indianapolis to see how officials had reshaped that municipality.

"We stole a lot of ideas from Indianapolis," Littlefield said. "One was how they did their planning."

In Indianapolis, Hudnut had assembled a braintrust of people from different backgrounds and political affiliations to guide development of the city. Littlefield said that idea became "Chattanooga Venture," a nonprofit organization that opened in 1984 and helped spur revitalization of the city.

It also inspired the creation of a comprehensive planning program called "Vision 2000."

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Reflecting on his eight-year career as mayor, Rose told the Chattanooga Times in April 1983 that he had developed a growing admiration for the people who lived in the city.

"The greatest thing, the thing that impresses me more than anything else, is how totally caring and loving are an extremely high percentage of the people who make up the Chattanooga area," he told the paper shortly before his retirement.

Rose started his career for the city as an assistant traffic engineer in April 1964. He became city coordinator a year later, serving in that capacity until 1969.

When A.L. "Chunk" Bender became Chattanooga mayor in January 1969, he appointed Rose acting commissioner of public works. Rose later won a full term on the City Commission in March 1971, garnering the second highest number of votes.

At the time, the city charter stated that the second-highest finisher would serve as vice mayor, a position Rose held as he worked as public works commissioner. Residents elected him mayor in 1975, succeeding Mayor Robert Walker.

He retired in 1983 after running unopposed for re-election in 1979 and entered private business. However, it was hard for Rose to stay away from local government, and he opted to run for commissioner of public utilities in 1987.

Littlefield had planned on running for that position but decided to run for commissioner of public works instead.

"He was so politically powerful that I was not about to challenge him," Littlefield chuckled.

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Rose left public service again in 1990 after a change in the city charter altered the city's form of government from a city commission to a city council.

"I have great respect for him," Littlefield said. "I was so sorry to see that he had passed away, but he had a great career, great life and he leaves a lot of improvements in this community that would have not have happened without his participation in all these efforts."