Former Valdosta City Council member Elizabeth (Bette) Bechtel died Thursday, December 23, at the age of 95. Bechtel leaves behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.
Her former city colleagues remember her fondly and are thankful for the influence she had during her time in office. “I served on City Council with Bette and learned a great deal from her over the years. She was very knowledgeable. You could always go to her with questions, and she would do what she could to provide guidance and help. I even spoke with her several times after she left office, and she continued to help. I admired her for her involvement in the community. She was a great leader. She is someone this city will continue to admire and respect,” said Joseph “Sonny” Vickers, District 3 City Councilman.
Bechtel helped pave the way for women’s role in local government and furthered the conversation on environmental preservation when she became the first woman elected to the Valdosta City Council in 1972.
She served a total of six two-year terms, one of which as Mayor Pro-Tem. In keeping with her interest in environmental issues, she wrote and introduced Valdosta’s first tree ordinance, which led to Valdosta being recognized as a “Tree City.”
She continued her service to the Valdosta/Lowndes County area by serving 16 years on the Greater Lowndes County Planning Commission. She also served as president of The Symphony Guild from 1999-2000, volunteered at the Langdale Hospice House, and served on the board of the Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County, to name a few of the many roles she played in community affairs.
Tim Carroll, District 5 City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem, lived down the street from Bechtel and served with her on the Historic Preservation Commission and the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission. He described her as witty and full of personality.
Carroll reflects on the amazing work she and her husband Bernard did for the community by saying, “She and Bern were the local wildlife experts that were called in when Inner Perimeter Road was being built. They helped identify Goffer Tortoise and Eastern Indigo Snake habitats, both of which are endangered and indigenous to our area. When I joined the Planning Commission, she and Bern took me under their wing. Every Sunday before a Planning Commission meeting, they would take me to look at the properties connected to the cases we would have the following week. We did that for two years, and I learned so much from her doing that. The city is losing a piece of history.”