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Murray Journal

Former leader behind Jordan River Parkway and Fashion Place Mall, Jack DeMann, passes away

Apr 03, 2022 04:56PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Jack DeMann works at his city office. (Photo courtesy of the Murray Museum)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Jack DeMann, a civic leader who devoted over 30 years of his life to his Murray community, passed away in March at age 88. DeMann served as a state legislator, city councilor, city administrator, and president of the Utah League of City and Towns.

While he served in many capacities, he is perhaps best remembered for his service with former Mayor Lynn Pett.

“He was a liberal Democrat who rooted for the U of U, and I was a conservative Republican who rooted for BYU, but we never had a disagreement between us,” DeMann told the Murray Journal in 2017.

DeMann recalled one day in January 1974 when Pett, park commissioner for Murray City, came to him with a plan for the undeveloped land by the Jordan River. Concerned about the industrial sprawl they saw communities dealing with along the river, Pett outlined a plan to acquire land (from Winchester Street to 4800 South) and turn it into parks and maintained wetland. This idea became the Jordan River Parkway Trail, which saw record-breaking utilization numbers in 2021: 276,448 people.

Mayor Pett later asked DeMann to be his special assistant. Although opposite in most respects, the two made an indomitable team.

Pett and DeMann made it a point to solve one of the city’s main problems, which was removing the long-dormant toxic smelters that punctuated Murray’s skyline. As a result, the ASARCO plant was deemed a Superfund site and, under their leadership, transformed to become the eventual home of Intermountain Medical Center and Costco.

Even though DeMann graduated from the University of Utah, he was a devoted BYU Cougar fan. As he pursued a degree in journalism, he worked nights at the Deseret News as a crime beat reporter.

After graduation, he served as editor of the national Woolgrower’s Magazine and Kennecott Copper’s company employee publications.

DeMann would remain in corporate communications, later taking a job with aerospace manufacturer Hercules.

According to his family, “The company was anxious to have its people serve in elected positions, encouraged them to run and supported them in doing so. As a result, with the support of his employer and family, Jack was elected the city commissioner in Murray in 1967.”

As city commissioner (like the city council), DeMann worked with developers to create the Fashion Place Mall. In 1973, Murray City’s government was changed to the mayor/council form, and DeMann was elected one year as a city councilmember.

DeMann attempted a run for mayor in 1965 but was defeated by Mayor William Dunn.

In 1983, DeMann left city politics and was elected to the Utah State House of Representatives. While there, as a Republican legislator, he was elected House majority assistant whip. He served as vice chairman for the Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In 1988, he stepped down from the legislature to be appointed president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns. But his friend, newly-elected Murray Mayor Pett, asked him to serve as the city’s administrator in 1990.

After serving two terms with Pett, they both decided to retire on the same day. They issued a joint statement in the Salt Lake Tribune’s opinion page to make the announcement.

“Our service goes back to the time when State Street south of 5300 South was still largely agricultural land, and a few small shops and the city had barely more than 5,000 residents—long before I-15 was built initially, before Fashion Place Mall, automobile ‘row’ (State Street between 4500 South and 5300 South), the Jordan River Parkway, and so much more.

“There are, for us, many fond memories of opportunities to serve, challenging projects to complete, generous community volunteers with who we could work and the many devoted and conscientious city employees who worked so hard with us to bring about the good things we now enjoy as ‘Murrayites.’”