Longtime former Calgary alderman Sue Higgins has passed away.

She died on Sunday after a long battle with lung cancer. She was being cared for in a hospice for the last 18 months, her family said.

Higgins, who represented the city's southeast residents for 21 years, was known for her feisty character.

During the debate over whether to start calling aldermen councillors instead, she said she would rather be called an “alderbroad."

Higgins was first elected in 1977 and retired in 2001.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was very sad to hear of Higgins’ passing.

“In an age of polished politics and spin, Sue was always straight-talking and blunt, using her own form of colourful language. But under that tough exterior, she had a deep love for this city and for everyone in it,” Nenshi said in a written statement.

Higgins ran for mayor in 1983, losing to Ralph Klein.

Former alderman Dale Hodges remembered Higgins as a "force unto herself."

He said Higgins made her presence most felt on council when it came to matters concerning the city’s operating and capital budgets.  

“She was a person who was very interested and very determined to make sure that city finances were under control,” he said. 

City council voted unanimously in 2012 to rename an off-leash dog park in Southland after Higgins.