When Kent Palmer was campaigning for city alderman in 1999, he stopped by the home of Brian Ward. Ward was so touched by the experience, he wrote a letter to The Capital Times.
Ward recalled how he was fed up with politics at the time, but found himself won over by Palmer's caring attitude.
"After a few exchanges of ideas, concerns and beliefs, I gradually became aware of a transformation taking place. Palmer showed me that there are still people who care enough to become involved," Ward wrote.
After this encounter, Ward said that he was motivated himself to get active in his community, attending his first ever neighborhood association meeting.
Palmer won election that year and was reelected in 2001. He resigned in November 2002 before the end of his second term to remarry and move to Cambridge. He died on Monday at 47 from complications of diabetes.
While on the council, Palmer served on the Alcohol License Review Committee. Former ALRC colleague Bill Cosh recalls that Palmer was "very thoughtful on the issues surrounding alcohol policy in the downtown."
"He was an extremely caring, extremely passionate person about downtown Madison," adds Cosh.
Politics, it would appear, did not get in the way of their relationship. Cosh is a Republican who previously worked for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and is now the spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources under the administration of Gov. Scott Walker. Palmer ran on the Progressive Dane ticket and was, in the words of his friend Tom Dehlinger, a "raging liberal in the proudest sense."
Palmer started delivering copies of Isthmus for Dehlinger, the paper's circulation manager, around the same time he joined the Common Council. Dehlinger says it was immediately apparent that Palmer was smart and able and he soon had Palmer helping out with other circulation duties.
"He had great integrity and he was as honest as the day is long," Dehlinger says.
Dehlinger, a former member of the Brooklyn Village Board, says he and Palmer often discussed politics. "He was idealistic and realistic at the same time," says Dehlinger. "He had a great ability to listen to people and weed out what was doable and what was not."
Former colleagues who served with Palmer say he worked hard for his constituents.
Former Ald. Judy Olson says Palmer was instrumental in the redevelopment of the Walgreen's in the East Madison Shopping Center, urging a more pedestrian-friendly layout for the drug store.
"Walgreen's agreed to bring the building up closer to the street as a result of his involvement in their remodeling," says Olson.
And former Ald. Ken Golden says Palmer worked very hard to get the East Washington Avenue neighborhoods just west of Highway 30 "better supported."
Golden says that when he heard the news of Palmer's death, one expression kept coming to mind: "What a sweet man."According to his obituary, Palmer worked with Greenpeace during his college years and started a "green" landscaping business when he moved to Madison.
He was a member of a state championship baseball team while in high school in Oak Park, Illinois, and continued to play league ball in Madison. He was also a musician, home brewer and blogger on beer for Madison Magazine, where he took over as circulation manager after his Isthmus gig.
"He brewed some good beer," says Dehlinger.
A memorial service for Palmer will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, December 3 at Gunderson East Funeral Home, 5203 Monona Dr. Visitation will be at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until the time of the service.