Rochester lost one of its most outstanding public servants on Sunday with the death of Larry Stid, the city's deputy commissioner of community development.
A 27-year City Hall veteran, Stid had served as a city planner, headed the city's planning bureau for 16 years, and was appointed deputy commissioner in 2003. In those positions, he amassed a staggering depth of knowledge about Rochester, its development, its challenges, and its people.
"He had more in his brain than most people have in their filing cabinet," said Rochester Downtown Development Corporation President Heidi Zimmer-Meyer the morning after Stid's death. He "understood the pulse of the community," said Zimmer-Meyer. "He understood the way the community worked and what mattered to people and could translate that into ways that affect public policy."
"With him goes a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge," said Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson. "I can't tell you how much I relied on Larry."
The reliance went far deeper than Stid's knowledge --- and his willingness, as several associates said, to push the envelope. He was a people person, able to relate to people and understand and respect conflicting points of view. Faced with controversial city-planning issues and contentious critics, Stid stayed calm, said Johnson, and would caution, "Just give them time."
"He had a genius for figuring out how to defuse potential problems and be able to move forward," said Johnson. "He was just one of the smoothest people I've ever worked with in terms of the ability to get along with people."
Stid was a government employee intensely committed to public participation. "He truly believed in involving people in the planning process," said Johnson. Stid, with his former boss, retired Community Development Commissioner Tom Argust, was instrumental in the development of the city's Neighbors Building Neighborhoods process. And more recently, he had been closely involved in the series of neighborhood planning charrettes. Stid spent the day before his death working at the latest of those, focusing on East Main Street.
And Stid was "a true gentleman," said Argust. "He was low key, behind the scenes --- a person who had no ego. He was one of those true, classic people who did his job and did it very, very well, and by doing it within the context of public service, left an amazing legacy."
"You never heard someone say an unkind word about Larry," said Johnson, "and you never heard Larry say an unkind word about anybody."
"He had his heart in his work," said Zimmer-Meyer. "He was just a spectacular person." And, said Zimmer-Meyer: "He will be impossible to replace. They say people are replaceable, but I don't think he is."