This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2002, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When Mitt Romney wanted to launch an Olympic legacy plaza, it is no surprise he turned to Kem Gardner.
and the developer has been his go-to guy ever since.
"Kem knows virtually everyone you need to know in this town to get stuff done," said Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi, a fellow Democrat and friend of The Boyer Co. president. "Kem clearly was the biggest reason Mitt came to Utah."
Gardner recruited a group of "ambassadors" who hit up Utah philanthropists for cash contributions. He even persuaded Jon Huntsman Sr., the wealthy industrialist who once ripped Romney for raiding the pool of money for local charities, to write the first check.
When former Utah Transit Authority Chairman Jeff Hawker accused SLOC of sabotaging UTA's efforts to raise federal money for light-rail construction, Gardner chastised his old friend and arranged a meeting with Romney that the transportation official later described as bruising.
And during the federal investigation into the city's bid tactics, Gardner tried in vain to persuade another friend to accept a plea agreement and spare the community and SLOC the embarrassment of a trial. At one point, Gardner even arranged a conference call with Tom Welch so that Romney could emphasize the point.
"I talk to him every day and try to be encouraging," Gardner said of Romney. "If I can help, I try to help. It's an enormous load that he carries."
Gardner's mothering extends well beyond mediation. He set up an apartment at the LDS Church-owned Brigham Street apartments for nights when Romney was too tired to drive to his home in Deer Valley. If he senses Romney is overloaded, he arranges long horseback rides in the country. He is also busy carving out a place in Utah politics for the Boston businessman, preferably as the next governor.
"I'd like him to run for office here rather than in Massachusetts," Gardner said. "Mitt's done a good job and we ought to use him."
Romney refuses to discuss his political aspirations. But his rise to power in the Olympic movement has already paid big dividends for Gardner.
His Gateway shopping center will be a focal point of SLOC's downtown celebration plans. On a more personal note, Gardner was one of six people Romney selected to attend the Olympic flame-lighting ceremony in Greece, and he is involved in deciding who gets to sit in President Bush's box at the Opening Ceremony.
Romney makes no apologies.
"I certainly hope that those who contribute and those who are sponsors of the Olympics receive some benefit that makes them want to do it again," he said.