George Diehl, former Tooele City mayor, passed away Sunday at the age of 99.
Diehl came to Tooele in 1942 to work at Tooele Army Depot, where he served as the executive assistant to the commander for 33 years, before serving as mayor from 1983 to 1994.
Mayor Diehl guided Tooele through some tumultuous times, according to former Tooele City Mayor Patrick Dunlavy, who worked with Diehl while he was mayor.
“George was mayor when the Base Realignment and Closure Committee down-sized the Tooele Army Depot,” Dunlavy said. “George’s leadership helped us turn what could have been a disastrous situation into an opportunity for growth. It was Mayor Diehl’s leadership and contacts in Washington, D.C. that created the current environment we have out there on the former depot property with businesses.”
Diehl talked about the challenge of the base realignment in a 2008 interview with the Transcript Bulletin.
“If you take the main economic support out of a community, you can expect major reactions,” Diehl said. “The change in stature and function of the depot was inevitable because of international conditions. And all we could hope for was a gradual transition rather than an abrupt cessation of activities.”
Diehl served as the chairman of the Base Transition Committee that brought in college programs to help retrain depot employees. He also served on the Tooele County Industrial Development Committee, the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the Tooele County Welfare Board, and the Tooele City Charter Committee.
Diehl became involved with Tooele City government in 1982, several years after his retirement from TEAD.
Tooele City Mayor Orem Probert passed away while in office and John Cluff, who was serving as city council chairman, became mayor.
“I already had a full-time job that I wanted to keep, so I worked day and night to meet the demands of both jobs,” Cluff said.
Cluff, who worked with Diehl at the depot, hired Diehl as the assistant mayor and gave him responsibility for economic development. Diehl had served as the interim director of the University of Utah’s Bureau of Community Development.
A special election was held and Diehl was elected initially to a two-year term to finish Probert’s term. Later, Diehl was elected to two four-year terms as mayor, becoming the first Tooele City mayor to serve for more than one term.
“Diehl was a very effective administrator,” Cluff said.
Diehl worked to expand the city’s business base and developed long range plans for the city, according to Cluff.
At the time Diehl was mayor, the city had trouble with water, according to Dunlavy. Diehl led efforts to purchase a sod farm in Vernon to acquire its water rights for future use by the city, Dunlavy said.
In 2008, Diehl told the Transcript Bulletin about his efforts directing the city’s relief efforts from a flood in May 1984.
Diehl said he called Glen Bolinder, of Bolinder Construction Company, and asked for a big backhoe. Bolinder met Diehl at the corner of Coleman and 200 South with the largest backhoe available in Tooele County. After a little direction from Diehl and city employees, Bolinder began digging a ditch to the Tooele City Airport.
“We didn’t talk about how he would be reimbursed, or even if he would be reimbursed,” Diehl told the Transcript Bulletin. “I had him dig up the street to get the water away from the homes. When people talk about governmental red tape, I tell them about this story. There were no attorneys involved. All that was said was ‘dig that ditch.’“
In retirement, Diehl and his wife, Violet, spent time traveling.
Diehl was part of the delegation from the U.S. State Department to attend a national peace treaty convention in Moscow.
The couple also spent time traveling through Canada, Alaska, and Montana, occasionally taking grandchildren with them.
Cluff recalls that Diehl was a friendly person who got along well with people, but at the same time, he said Diehl was firm and he knew what he wanted.
“He was good to people,” Cluff said. “He respected all people, regardless of their position.”
Diehl commanded respect because of his knowledge, experience and the way he treated people, according to Dunlavy.
“He was honest and he treated people well,” Dunlavy said.
Dunlavy said he and Diehl became close friends while working together at City Hall.
“I remember him saying that people don’t want their taxes raised so it’s our job to make the money we have work,” Dunlavy said.