I read of the recent passing of former city councilman Tom Byrne with great sadness.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Tom when I was a reporter with the Altoona Mirror covering City Hall in the early 1980s.
Tom was truly a man of the people. He felt he owed them the truth. And he told the truth because it was the right thing to do, even when it may have been more prudent to say nothing.
As a reporter, I appreciated that. I think the voters did, too. They kept re-electing him.
Tom did not see himself as a politician, so he never worried about his image.
Sometimes, in the heat of battle, he would misspeak, like the time at a council meeting when he accused someone of "putting the horse before the cart."
He was real, and he could laugh at himself. That was part of the guy's charm. You never knew what you were going to get. You just knew it would be sincere.
The relationship between elected officials and the media is meant to be adversarial, but - although I'm sure we had our moments - you just
couldn't be consistently adversarial with Tom.
You knew you were dealing with a principled man whose intentions were nothing but honorable and whose political life was unique in its singular desire to serve.
This is not to cast aspersions on council members past or present, but anyone who knew Tom would agree that he was one of a kind. One of the best kind.