A woman who spent decades representing Cambridge, including serving as the city’s first mayor, has died at the age of 81.

Claudette Millar, who was born in Belleville in 1935 and raised in Kitchener, died Wednesday after a battle with stomach cancer.

In 1970, Millar was elected mayor of Preston – one of the three communities that would be combined a few years later to form the City of Cambridge.

At the time of her election, she was the youngest mayor in Canada.

When Preston, Galt and Hespeler amalgamated into one community in 1973, Millar was elected the first mayor of the new city.

Doug Craig, the city’s current mayor, says that in that period, Millar “laid the foundation for what Cambridge is today” – including steering the city through the 1974 Grand River flood, and assisting in some major economic gains.

“She was the leader that brought Toyota and thousands of jobs to Cambridge,” Craig said.

Millar remained Cambridge’s mayor until 1988. She returned to politics in 2003, when she was elected for the first of what would turn out to be three terms as a regional councillor representing Cambridge.

She was also known for her passion on environmental issues, and for caring about the people she served.

“When she became your friend, then you knew you had a friend for life,” said Jane Brewer, a former mayor who also served with Millar on regional council.

Flags at Cambridge’s municipal buildings were lowered to half-mast Wednesday in Millar’s honour.