TERRE HAUTE —
Former long-time Terre Haute Mayor P. Pete Chalos was known for his candor and – sometimes pointed – honesty.
So it seems appropriate that his official records – including letters, desk calendars, photos, newspaper clippings and more – are now a part of the public record at the Vigo County Public Library.
The Chalos family, which includes two second-generation elected officials, made the records available to the VCPL in a public ceremony Tuesday at the main library branch downtown.
“My dad was a man of many passions,” said Vigo County Councilwoman Kathy Chalos Miller, who joined other members of her family for the ceremony. “I hope his archives will show people how much he cared for the community.”
For now, the Chalos collection is a mass of more than two dozen boxes of materials, all to be sorted and organized by library staff. The whole process will take many months, said Jim Gilson, archivist and digitization librarian at the VCPL.
“It’s quite a bit of material that has to be organized,” Gilson said.
The library and the community showed their gratitude for the material in the ceremony, which was attended by more than 30 people, including current Mayor Duke Bennett, former Mayor Judy Anderson, Vigo County Historian Mike McCormick and author Dorothy Jerse, who writes extensively on local history.
“People are mortal; archives are not,” said McCormick, who spoke during the approximately 45-minute ceremony. “Hopefully, this donation [by the Chalos family] will attract someone else’s archives.”
Chalos, the son of Greek immigrants who served as mayor from 1980 through 1995, died in 2006 at age 78.
Among the items in the collection are records from Chalos’ failed attempt in 1983 to seek the Democratic Party nomination for governor. In a campaign press release, Chalos showed some of the partisan political fight for which he was known. He is quoted saying then-Gov. Bob Orr, a Republican seeking a second term, favored utilities over ordinary people and had helped bring about a “decade of decline and deterioration” in the state. Orr was re-elected in 1984, defeating Democratic State Sen. Wayne Townsend.
But Tuesday’s event was about celebrating the optimism some believe Chalos helped bring to the city once labeled “America’s Delinquent City.” It was also about Chalos the teacher, basketball coach and family man.
“He was always there,” said Jim Chalos, son of the late mayor and a current member of the Terre Haute City Council, on which his father also served two terms. His father always managed to balance his family and faith with his political career, he said.
During his final days in office, Chalos told a Tribune-Star reporter that he felt he helped the city weather some difficult economic times and pointed to [then] new investments on North Fruitridge Avenue: Sony DADC, Bemis and Columbia House.
When asked about his legacy, the out-going four-term mayor told the newspaper:
“I hope for a legacy of that my kids can walk down the street, and somebody says, ‘Their dad used to be mayor,’ and they don’t have to be ashamed of that.” If their donation of his records is any indication, the late mayor can be assured that legacy is secure.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.