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Sophie Masloff Left Big Imprint On Local Politics

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Sophie Masloff knew politics better than most men, having done grunt work in Democratic Party headquarters for decades.

"I went there as a volunteer for many years and got to know every Democratic officeholder as they came along," Masloff told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on her 90th birthday in December, 2007.

She was nearly 60 years old before party leaders tapped her to run for city council in 1976, and she almost didn't run.

"I did it with trepidation because by that time I was tired, and I thought, it's time for me to get out," she said.

But she ran and won, and as city council president became mayor in 1988 when Dick Caliguiri died in office.

The next year she defied party leaders when she wanted a four-year term on her own.

"They originally asked me not to run," Masloff recalled. "They literally insulted me, and I thought I'm going to run anyhow, so I went in with both guns shooting."

Sophie defeated four better known men: Frank Lucchino, Tom Flaherty, Tom Murphy and Byrd Brown.

Joe Mistick was her chief of staff and calls Masloff a bridge mayor between the old and new style of politics.

"She knew all the old ways and had done them. And she was no stranger to the modern way of politicking, and she was more than open to embracing them," noted Mistick.

That included privatizing cultural assets like the zoo, aviary and conservatory -- cutting taxes, paving streets and her famous plan to build a new ballpark.

"If they had built it when I recommended it, it would have cost half the amount of money," added Masloff.

By the end of her five years in office -- she was simply Sophie to everyone.

There has never been a mayor quite like her -- humble but politically shrewd.

And you'll never find anyone who will say a bad word about her.

Now that's a legacy that very few politicians ever get.

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