PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There was no one like her before – or since.
A Jewish grandmother with a razor wit, a most unlikely choice to become mayor of a major city, but Sophie Masloff defied and exceeded all expectations.
“I always characterized her as the surprise of the century because everybody always underestimated her,” said former Masloff Aide Jim Turner.
She actually never aspired to be mayor, but was thrust into that role when Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri died in office.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan covered her administration for the Post-Gazette, Jon Schmitz for the Pittsburgh Press. They both wrote about her initial missteps, but both found her hard not to like.
“Our job is to be adversaries and she certainly gave us plenty of opportunities,” Schmitz said. “There were misspeaks and gaffs and things like that, and when we reported about it, I think she tended to let it roll off her back. No hard feelings.”
In fact, it soon became apparent that her common touch and folksy style was her strongest political assets. And as one political reporter once said, “she fits this town like an old shoe.”
“Like, talking to anybody on the street,” said Rich Trocchio of Wiener World. “There was no airs about Sophie.”
She’d take the pulse of the people, while stopping for a hot dog and custard at Weiner World.
“She was a good cookie, old time, no baloney,” said Trocchio.
That sense came to the forefront in perhaps her most defining moment – intervening in the month-long Port Authority strike. Though she had no standing, she went to court to order the drivers back to work.
“It came down to her feeling the pain of everyday citizens were,” Turner said. “The janitors, the cooks the maids, the people that relied on the buses and she said that’s it, I will not stay out of it. And intervened, and intervened successfully.”
And through all the hard times she never stopped having fun.
“She had a little bit of a wicked sense of humor,” said Schmitz. “I remember when the city was having financial trouble and was thinking about closing the aviary, she said ‘Oh that’d be easy, we just open the windows.’”
Four mayors have succeeded Masloff in office, but her imprint remains both on the city she loved and those of us who knew her to be one of a kind.
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