Park City honors former city manager with a memorial bench
Arlene Loble served from 1980-89
Correction: This article, which also appeared in the Wednesday print edition of The Park Record, has been updated to correct misspellings of Loble’s name. It also misstated the year Loble died. The Park Record regrets the errors. A corrected version of this article will be published in the Saturday, July 24, print edition.
Park City is giving former city manager Arlene Loble a permanent seat at City Hall with a memorial bench dedication on Saturday, July 24.
The public is invited to the ceremony, which will start at 4 p.m. at the Marsac Building, to hear or say a few words about the late city manager who some lovingly called “The Iron Maiden,” “Madame Manager” and “Aunt Arlene,” said Sally Elliott, one of the event’s organizers.
“We’ll have a microphone ready and we would like to encourage people who knew Arlene and loved her to come join us,” Elliott said. “We’ll also enjoy some pizza and beer in the city council chamber afterwards.”
Loble, who passed away in 2019, is remembered for her years as Park City manager from 1980 to 1989, and the honor has been a long time coming, according to Elliott, who was chair of the town’s parks and recreation board from 1987-88.
“Arlene was absolutely iconic,” she said. “She came to Park City with a lot of experience, and she was a brilliant woman.”
One thing Elliott admired about Loble was her methodical way of approaching an issue.
“She was a powerful influence on me learning about municipal government,” Elliott said. “From her I learned how to sit back and make notes on the left, right, center, front and back of a subject before deciding on the most logical and ethical way of solving a problem.”
Elliott also appreciated Loble’s knack for inspiring her staff.
“She had a way of hiring good people, and building the confidence of the people she hired to go out and do their best work,” she said.
Loble arrived in Park City in October of 1980, and became the first woman to hold the office of city manager in Utah.
Not only did she come in with experience of working as assistant city manager in Helena, Montana, Loble had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in U.S. Government from the American University in Washington, D.C., and she earned her masters degree in city administration from the University of Kansas.
While in Park City, Loble began to forge the town’s path from a withering mining town into a flourishing winter-sports mecca, said Teri Orr, who was the Park Record’s editor in chief at the time.
“ParkWest was the ski area, and Deer Valley wasn’t on board with the Montage and St. Regis, yet,” said Orr, who was a good friend of Loble. “When Arlene came to town, we were excited. She was smart, young and attractive, and she knew her way around politics, which was something the former city government was and did not.”
In fact, Loble came to Park City just after a grand jury investigated the town for government corruption, according to Orr.
“Still, the city council had some smart people — Tina Lewis, Helen Alvarez, Bob Wells — names that are now historically important, but were just young and smart back then,” Orr said. “They had a can-do spirit, and they liked what they saw in Arlene. So they hired her.”
Orr also noticed how Loble could recognize points of interest that were usually taken for granted by local residents, and Loble was the one who found value in Park City’s history, according to Orr.
“While we only saw all of those mining buildings as being old and falling down, Arlene saw them as gems that deserved to be preserved and protected,” she said. “So she set about to do that.”
Loble was also the one who declared Main Street as an official historic district.
“Back then it wasn’t a historic attraction,” Orr said. “It was full of buildings that had boarded up windows, and there were a lot of vacant lots. But establishing Main Street as a historic district was how we could get different types of funding, and it was also the beginning of how people would eventually see Main Street as a destination of sorts.”
Loble was also instrumental in acquiring the Marsac Building as Park City’s new city hall.
“The Marsac School was a building that the school district wanted to get rid of, and Arlene became friends with Tony Mitchell, who was the school superintendent,” Orr said. “The two of them figured out a plan, and the school district ended up with some land and we ended up with some buildings. Back then, the town’s population was 1,800, tops. So getting things done wasn’t nearly as hard as it is today, and those things she was able to do would make an enormous difference for Park City’s future.”
Orr also liked Loble’s commitment to following up on ideas and commitments she made, which was made clear during an incident that involved the public works staff.
“They had threatened to strike, and she told them if they did she would fire them,” Orr said. “They balked at the idea and thought this tiny woman up in City Hall wouldn’t have it in her to fire them. But when they went on strike, she went over there and fired them all.”
Loble had worn red-heeled shoes when she did the firing, and those shoes became her symbol, according to Orr.
“Arlene had a pair of red shoes she kept on a shelf in her office,” she said.
While the town and most of the residents knew “Madame Manager” as a public figure, Loble would always be “Mom” to her daughter Rachel, and some of the things Loble taught her children in the home were some of the basic principles she took to her office.
“Mom taught me the value of listening, and listening closely, which was hard, I’m sure, because she worked long hours,” Rachel said. “I remember I would take a deep breath the moment she walked in the door and wouldn’t stop talking for an hour. I’m sure she was super tired, but she listened.”
The connection Loble made about listening and not talking all the time helped Rachel with her current career as a vice principal.
“Mom always told me that she felt a council meeting was a success if she didn’t have to say anything, because she wanted people who she was working with to be able to do their jobs better than she could,” Rachel said. “And that wouldn’t be possible if she was doing all of the talking.”
Rachel was also inspired by Loble’s dedication to accomplishing goals, even if the odds stacked up against her as a single mother.
“I watched mom go back to graduate school when she was an adult, and that showed me that you can decide what you want to do, but that you had to take the steps to do it,” she said. “Mom showed me that doing that can be hard, but if that’s what you wanted to do, you have to believe you can do it.”
Loble also taught Rachel tolerance and acceptance.
“I remember mom taking me to folk music concerts when I was 8, and one of the singers talked about her partner being a woman,” Rachel said. “So right after that, I was able to have a whole conversation with my mom about what it meant to be gay, and she talked with me about how people’s choices in life should be respected.”
Having a memorial bench for her mother in Park City is an honor for Rachel.
“Park City was important for both of us, because it’s where she became her full, professional self,” Rachel said, her voice filled with emotion. “My formative years were spent in this community, so it feels appropriate and also comforting that there is a bench there with my mom’s picture and my mom’s name. It’s a place I feel I and others can go to remember her.”
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, July 24
Where: Marsac Building, 445 Marsac Drive
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