This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Deedee Corradini the only female mayor in the history of Salt Lake City, whose drive helped shape downtown and whose tenacity proved key to Utah hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics has died.
She was 70.
"Our amazing mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend and mentor died today at her home in Park City, surrounded by the light, love and gratitude of her loved ones," her family said in a statement released late Sunday by Women's Ski Jumping USA. "Our lives will never be the same without her, yet we celebrate her legacy with such joy."
Corradini, who died after a six-month battle against nonsmoking lung cancer, became the city's 32nd and first female mayor in January 1992 after besting a field of a half-dozen candidates, mostly men. She won a second term and ended her tenure as mayor in January 2000.
"I felt that, being a businesswoman, Deedee brought that important perspective to City Hall," said developer and longtime friend Kem Gardner. "She was a strong executive and that enabled her to take on and successfully complete tough projects."
Corradini pushed to renovate the blighted west side of the city's business district with an ambitious 50-block project that involved moving roads, bridges and freeway corridors. That paved the way for The Gateway shopping and residential center a $375 million mixed-use development boasting 2 million square feet of shops, restaurants, offices and housing, as well as a 12-screen movie theater, a planetarium and a children's museum.
The trailblazing mayor, known for her red power dresses and her blue political leanings, became an early advocate for light rail, which debuted on Main Street in the final year of her mayoral run. She helped lay the groundwork for a transportation hub that connects TRAX, FrontRunner commuter trains and buses in what used to be the city's red-light district.
Corradini went to bat for construction of a new baseball stadium, replacing the decades-old and crumbling Derks Field with what is now Smith's Ballpark, home of the triple-A Salt Lake Bees.
She also led the effort to renovate Salt Lake City International Airport and added a third runway.
Not that she didn't encounter her share of turbulence. She found herself in the middle of three headline-grabbing scandals involving private business dealings and ethical questions on the Utah front and eyebrow-raising gift-giving on the global stage.
"With all her public accomplishments," said Salt Lake City lawyer and former Utah Democratic Party Chairman Pat Shea, "her greatest accomplishment was the job she did as a single mother, raising two kids whose successes in life reflect her ability and dedication as a parent."
Corradini crisscrossed the globe meeting with International Olympic Committee members for Salt Lake City's 2002 bid. She lobbied the Utah Legislature for a voter-approved sales-tax hike to build winter-sports facilities to help lure the Winter Games.
During that Olympic campaign, Corradini virtually lived on an airplane, said former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson. "Her energy was boundless."
"Deedee had so much grit and energy. She was a great role model for women as a leader," added Wilson, who earlier had envisioned the west-side overhaul that Corradini brought to fruition. "She always said I can do the job as well as any man, even better."
In championing the initial TRAX spur, she ran into stiff resistance from business owners, who balked at having Main Street torn up for months of construction to accommodate the rails.
"She had a lot of opposition from some of the most influential people in the city," Wilson said. "But she toughed it out. She won the argument, and now downtown light rail is an important part of the city."
Jan Graham, who served as Utah's first and only female attorney general, credited Corradini for showing that women should be viewed as serious leaders.
"Deedee was one of the strongest, most resilient and focused political leaders I've ever known," Graham said. "Her sophistication about the world and business brought respect, sometimes begrudging, from every quarter."
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who worked closely with Corradini on the Olympics, said she was "not afraid of doing big things."
"She was personable, but strong willed," he said. "She knew the importance of relentlessly moving forward when things were hard."
Leavitt was a Corradini colleague on the Utah Power & Light board before she became mayor and he became governor. Even then, she carried Olympic visions.
In 1998, Corradini stepped closer ever closer to realizing that dream, receiving the Olympic flag as the mayor of the next host city during the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
It was a vintage Corradini moment, with the mayor decked out in a red snowsuit on a frigid February night and beaming with pride while waving the flag back and forth.
"What more can one say but, 'Wow,' " she said two days later, when the Salt Lake City delegation brought back the flag to the cheers of 1,500 Utahns assembled in a jet hangar. "This flag also represents the spirit of Utah and the United States."
Corradini would not preside as mayor at the 2002 Winter Games. She opted against a third term, so that honor fell to her successor, Rocky Anderson.
However, she remained tied to the Olympic movement through her promotion of the Park City-heavy U.S. women's ski-jumping contingent. Being familiar by then with international sports federations, Corradini took a prime role in lobbying for inclusion of women's ski jumping in Olympic medal events.
"These young women are being discriminated against and deserve a chance," she said, beginning a fight that ultimately resulted in women's ski jumping making its Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
She was an "outspoken and unyielding leader in the global fight to allow women to participate in ski jumping at the Olympic level," said Women's Ski Jumping USA, for which she served as president.
"She played an important role in preparing our capital city to host the 2002 Olympic Winter Games," said Gov. Gary Herbert, "and leaves a legacy of investing in our transportation infrastructure that continues to benefit Utahns to this day."
Corradini, who was fluent in French and Arabic, is past president of the International Women's Forum. She was a senior distinguished fellow in urban studies at the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership at Furman University and senior vice president of Prudential Utah Real Estate.
"There's no one else who could have led us and made the difference she did," said Peter Jerome, founder of Women's Ski Jumping USA. "She was amazing to watch."
Her mayoral reign was not without controversy.
She encountered heavy criticism and calls for her resignation from some Salt Lake City Council members for soliciting $231,000 in cash gifts and loans to pay off $805,000 for her part in the failure of Bonneville Pacific, a publicly traded alternative-energy corporation that went bankrupt after allegedly inflating financial statements in 1991, the year she first won the mayoral election.
Besides the Bonneville Pacific and "giftgate" scandals, her administration also was dogged by an Olympic bribery probe that led to indictments of bid committee boss Tom Welch and his top deputy, Dave Johnson. They eventually were acquitted of the charges.
Corradini never faced criminal counts.
"Deedee was a tough, great lady," Welch said. "Talk about impact. She sat on the first light-rail committee for the city. She had a vision for what light rail could do for the city. She had the ability to see in the present what tomorrow could look like. And she loved the Olympic movement with all her heart."
Corradini also endured criticism for a deal she negotiated to sell a chunk of Main Street adjacent to Temple Square to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church converted the space into a picturesque, yet privately owned, pedestrian plaza.
"She wasn't perfect," Wilson said. "She did some things that were sometimes controversial. But she never let those things deter her."
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman remembers how Corradini inspired his daughter Liddy when she spoke to the youngster's third-grade class as the first female mayor of Salt Lake City.
"She stimulated the idea of public service in my daughter at that young age," Huntsman said. "She was an early role model."
Beyond that, Huntsman marveled at Corradini's accomplishments "against long odds. People don't realize the heavy opposition she received with her transportation vision and light rail. Now people just take that for granted. Deedee had a vision that few people in politics have any more. She was willing to risk her career to fulfill a vision, for something bigger than herself."
Salt Lake City's current mayor, Ralph Becker, echoed that praise, pointing to Corradini's "hard work, foresight and dedication."
"When it came to Salt Lake City, she was able to see our community in the context of a big, bold future," he said, "and do the work to ensure her vision would come to fruition."
Corradini was born in Providence, R.I., April 11, 1944, as Margaret Louise McMullen. As an adult, she legally changed her name to "Deedee," a childhood nickname. Corradini was the name she acquired when she married her first husband. They divorced and she later remarried.
She spent 11 years as a child attending school in Lebanon and Syria, where her father, Horace McMullen, was a theologian and educator. She received a bachelor's from Drew University in 1965 and a master's in psychology from the University of Utah.
Early in her career, in the 1970s, she served as press secretary to then-Utah Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, followed by a stint with Rep. Richard Ottinger, D-N.Y.
"I first met her in Wayne Owens' office," recalled Kay Christensen, who would serve as Corradini's deputy mayor and chief of staff. "People who just knew her in public life didn't get a chance to see the warm, loving side of her."
Utahns do get to see her legacy every time they board a TRAX train, visit The Gateway, and watch world-class athletes ski, skate or slide at an Olympic venue.
Deedee Corradini Memorial Service and Reception
Monday, March 9, 12-1 p.m.
Wasatch Presbyterian Church
1626 S. 1700 East, Salt Lake City
Monday, March 9, 2-4:30 p.m.
6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, Salt Lake City
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of the following organizations in honor of her memory: