MARQUETTE — He was a champion for the Upper Peninsula. That’s how people are remembering John Kivela.
After the shocking news of his passing became public Tuesday afternoon, his family, friends and colleagues in Lansing all took to social media to remember him.
“John was a master of working with people to solve problems,” said State Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba). “Once it got done, he never ran around grabbing the credit. It was an always ‘We got it done’ thing. The U.P. guys, in part because of his efforts, we had success doing that and I hope people see that.”
State Senator David Knezek lived with Kivela the last five years. He called Kivela, who worked with people on both sides of the aisle to get things done, the kind of legislator he wanted to someday be.
David Knezek recalled their last conversation together Tuesday morning, after Kivela’s arrest. He told Kivela that he loved him and gave him a hug.
To My Friend, John:
Who would have thought the Mayor of Marquette and a novice from Wayne County would have found their…
David Knezek closed his post with the words: “Warm smile, salt and pepper hair, Upper Peninsula charm, a bear in the Legislature. That’s my John Kivela.”
Kivela served on the Marquette City Commission as a commissioner and mayor before his stint in Lansing. One of the people he worked with was Jason Schneider, a former commission member.
“To me he was a mentor. And it wasn’t even an intentional mentor relationship,” said Schneider. “I would watch the way he would run meetings, I watched the way he made sure that everybody had the chance to say their piece and really discuss. He wouldn’t use his weight of the position of mayor to push any agenda one way or another. He really made sure that everybody was heard.”
Of all the heartfelt posts and statements that have come out, the most revealing came from Shelby Kivela, John’s daughter. Shelby wrote very openly about her father’s struggles with alcohol, saying it strained their relationship in the final few months of his life.
She wrote, “I’m not ashamed to talk about the last two years of my dad’s life that have been extremely difficult and will continue to speak out more as addiction is now closer to my heart than ever.”
I wanted to post something earlier today about how I wouldn't wish the disease of alcoholism against my worst enemy, and…
John Kivela was 47. He leaves behind his wife, Sandy, daughter Shelby and son Andrew.
John’s supporters have been putting out his campaign yard signs as a way to remember him. As soon as his funeral arrangements are announced, we will let you know.