He served not only on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board for years, but also as city council member from 1999 to 2001 and 2015-2017, as well as a stint as mayor from 2003 to 2007.
“He was a person who wanted West U to be the best it could be,” said Susan Sample, former mayor of West U from 2015-2019. “He was passionate about West U.”
Ballanfant died from complications from COVID-19 March 29 in Sugar Land. He was known to also suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
The former West U mayor graduated from Lamar High School, and the University of Texas Law School, after which he would join the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he twice was named Outstanding Assistant United States Attorney. Before his retirement, Ballanfant was an attorney for Shell Oil Company.
Since as long as she knew Ballanfant dating back to the beginning of her residency in West University Place about 25 years ago, Mardi Turner recalled he was always civically involved, including their time together on the Parks and Recreation Board and city council.
“He was always there, always a part of what I was doing, whether on the parks board or the city council,” she said.
During Ballanfant’s time as mayor, he also served as president of the Harris County Council of Mayors and Councils. He was also a member of the Battleship Texas Commission and president of Concerned Citizens for Washington Cemetery Care at the time that the historic cemetery was merged with Glenwood Cemetery.
Both the commission and cemetery care group revolve around preserving some aspect of history. The commission was established in 1948 focused on preserving and enhancing the Battleship Texas, while the cemetery care group focuses on maintaining the historic cemetery site.
And Ballanfant’s involvement in the two groups is no surprise with his apparent fascination in history, Turner said.
“His favorite thing, as far as I know, was history,” she said. “He was a big, big crazy person about history. He was utterly fascinated by it.”
Ballanfant was also passionate about mass transit. He resigned from his West U mayorship in 2007 to become a board member for the Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors, where he served until 2015.
During his swearing in for the board, Ballanfant stated he had an affinity for mass transit, having used it in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and in Europe, and that he was a local transit system user for over 30 years.
Turner recalled seeing Ballanfant always walking the community.
“My favorite part about Burt is that he was always out in the community, but in a funny way to me,” she said. “He always walked everywhere. More than once, I’d hear a knock on my door, and it was Burt, and he was on one of his treks. He either wanted to chat, or a glass of water, or both.”