Salt Lake County Councilman and Utah restaurateur Sam Granato died Wednesday, his office said. He was 67 years old.
In a statement, his family said Granato died peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. He was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago, despite never being a smoker, his cousin David Spatafore said.
Granato was councilman for Salt Lake County’s District 4 — along the east side of the county, from the University of Utah to Bengal Boulevard — when he died. He’d been on the County Council since 2013. He also owned a series of Italian delis and distributed food to Utah restaurants. He was on the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control board from 2007 to 2011.
The County Council, in a statement issued Wednesday night, said it would “deeply miss his kindness and the thoughtfulness he brought to his life of public service.”
“I will always be grateful that I found my way to Sam and that he chose to bring me into his family,” she said. “Sam loved an underdog and supported people who stood on principle — he will be missed by all who knew him, and his legacy will be cherished by many more.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski emailed a news release, saying politicians on both sides of the aisle enjoyed spending time with and learned from Granato, who was once a Republican and became a Democrat later in life.
Gov. Gary Herbert called Granato a “friend to everyone” — even in politics.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said Granato’s death was a “heartbreaking loss.”
“Everyone who knew Sam felt loved by him and watched with admiration as he selflessly gave to those around him and to the whole community,” McAdams said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he had many fond memories eating sandwiches at Granato’s warehouse, where he sought Granato’s advice and his company.
“Utah lost a giant tonight, and I lost a dear friend,” Hatch said. “Sam represented a better era in politics, when we focused on where we agree more than where we disagree, and our relationship was proof that there is so often more that unites us than divides us.”
Utah Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, remembered Granato as his friend and a friend to everyone.
“He was a wonderful public servant in his role as Salt Lake County Council member,” King tweeted. “But more important, he was a genuinely good human being. It was hard not to love that guy.”
The Utah Democratic Party described Granato in a statement as “first and foremost” a people person.
“When you talked to Sam, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the room,” the statement read. “Without hesitation, Sam was one of the most beloved elected officials in Utah, in part because everyone was welcome to a meal at his home, Granato Imports. Sam was a bridge-builder in a world of political islands.”
The Utah Republican party also offered condolences in a tweet, asking people to make a donation to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Granato’s honor.
Sen. Mike Lee, who defeated Granato for one of Utah’s U.S. Senate seats in 2010, said on Twitter that he was lucky to have interacted with Granato during the race, calling the councilman a “great businessman, public servant and pillar in the Salt Lake Community.”
Life won’t be the same without Granato, said County Council Chairwoman Aimee Winder Newton, and he set a great precedent.
“He treated every person he came in contact with as if they were the most important person in the world,” she said.
Funeral plans have not been announced.