This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
How soon we forget.
Deedee Corradini left office 15 years ago brought low by scandal and personal heartbreak, overshadowed by the flashy new mayor who would critique and replace her and critique her again. Her once-promising political career in tatters, she retreated across the country with her new husband. She said she would teach.
We moved on. New mayors, new trains, new malls.
Corradini, age 70, died Sunday quietly, privately. The woman who never smoked and usually ordered a salad or soup for lunch was killed by lung cancer.
And the city she shaped was left to assess.
If skylines are the measure of a mayor, Corradini's legacy is intact. Perhaps no one has sketched the modern outline of Salt Lake City more than its first woman mayor.
From The Gateway to City Creek Park, the Main Street Plaza to Smith's Ballpark, Corradini's hard-charging, few-questions-asked approach to redevelopment is apparent.
"There are so many physical manifestations of what she was able to accomplish," then-incoming Mayor Rocky Anderson said as Corradini was cleaning out her office. "People will be reminded of those almost on a daily basis."
For a time perhaps. But it's worth a refresher.
Like many regional metropolises, Salt Lake City was in decline when Corradini took the helm in 1992. Buildings were boarded. Main Street was lined by marginal antique shops and moldering historic structures. Railroad tracks crisscrossed downtown's western edge. The Metropolitan Hall of Justice was closing, leaving empty a whole city block between 400 South and 500 South.
At the same time, business and government leaders were trying desperately, it turned out to persuade the muckety-mucks at the International Olympic Committee to award the 2002 Winter Games to a high-desert city in the middle of the U.S. flyover zone.
Meanwhile, Utah leaders were agonizing over newfangled light rail trains. They were too costly, protesters said. Pedestrians, drivers and businesses would die.
Wearing her trademark red coat dresses and Ferragamo flats, Corradini waded into all of it, pushing and prodding and, at times, entangling herself in efforts that would come back to haunt her. She got Joe Buzas to move his minor-league baseball team to Salt Lake City, donated city land for the Matheson Courthouse, lobbied for federal dollars to place light-rail tracks, moved the Union Pacific freight trains farther west and shortened the freeway viaducts.
"She was there at a pivotal time," said former City Councilwoman Joanne Milner.
There was always a willing and happy partner waiting in the wings: Larry H. Miller, Kem Gardner and Roger Boyer, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
More efficient than transparent, the Corradini administration frequently engaged the public after a project was well into the planning stages.
And there were missteps, like the time she allowed then-Police Chief Ruben Ortega to fence off and close down Pioneer Park in the name of public safety.
But progress was undeniable.
"She had a vision that was very forward-thinking, and we're reaping the rewards of that now," said Deeda Seed, another former councilwoman. "She laid the foundation for the way Salt Lake City looks today. It's totally transformed. We have a lively, flourishing city."
In a meeting with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the Salt Lake City International Airport, Corradini introduced herself as Utah's "Iron Lady."
She seemed frosty at times, but those close to her remember her warmth.
"[LDS] President [Gordon B.] Hinckley really adored her," said Stuart Reid, Corradini's economic development director and a former Mormon church employee. When she left office, the LDS Church presented her with a book of her genealogy.
For others, she was inscrutable.
"She was such a big figure in my life," Seed said, "but I didn't know her well."
Through it all, Corradini was hounded by controversy. Bonneville Pacific a white-collar, green-energy investment scheme few remember and even fewer can explain left her with an $805,000 settlement bill. That debt launched her into "giftgate" and a City Council ethics investigation when she solicited $231,000 in cash "gifts" from prominent Utahns including Jon Huntsman Sr., Norman Tanner and Larry H. Miller who wanted to help her pay it off.
"She had a very powerful persona," Milner said. "But there was a flip side."
Finally, Salt Lake City's Olympic bribery scandal put an end to any thoughts of a third term. She would not be mayor when her town hosted the Games.
In the ensuing years, she came back to the state she still considered home, returning to the Olympic stage she loved by advocating for women ski jumpers.
Whatever her speckled record, Corradini's second act proved an unmitigated triumph: Ski jumpers vied for medals at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Tribune news editor Rebecca Walsh covered Salt Lake City including the Corradini administration from 1996 to 2002.