WITT, PETER (24 July 1869-20 Oct. 1948), politician and transit expert, was born in Cleveland to Christian and Anna Witt. He attended school through the 5th grade and then worked in a basket factory. He later worked as an iron molder and foundryman. Rebellious and outspoken, Witt took part in union activities and was blacklisted in 1896. A follower of the single-tax philosophy of Henry George, Witt wrote Cleveland Before St. Peter, about tax dodging by wealthy Clevelanders. In 1900 Witt became Cleveland's decennial appraiser; in 1903, city clerk, serving TOM L. JOHNSON. After Johnson's defeat in 1909, Witt worked with Forest City Investment Co. From 1911-15 he was commissioner of street railways in under NEWTON D. BAKER, introducing the "pay-leave" system on streetcars and eliminating many stops, reducing running time (see URBAN TRANSPORTATION).
In 1915, Witt ran unsuccessfully for mayor. From 1916-23, he was a consultant on mass transit for other cities. He helped establish a city manager form of government for Cleveland in 1921 (see CITY MANAGER PLAN). In 1923 Witt was elected to CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL as an independent, serving until 1927. In 1924 he supported Robert La Follette for president, later supporting Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1928 Witt ran unsuccessfully for Ohio governor; in 1932, for Cleveland mayor. From 1932 until his death, Witt lived in semiretirement, spending time on N. Bass Island. He died following a heart attack, survived by his wife, Sadie James, whom he married in 1892, and 3 daughters, Hazel, Norma, and Helen.
Peter Witt Papers, WRHS.