SALT LAKE CITY — It’s only 100 days into Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s first term. And yet, it already feels like a lifetime to the new mayor.

Within her first 100 days, Mendenhall and her administration have been confronted by two unprecedented crises that have rattled Utah and its capital city: A 5.7 magnitude earthquake — Utah’s largest earthquake in 28 years — and the global coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered businesses, trapped Utahns in their homes and roiled the national economy.

It’s a stark shift from the bright economic outlook ahead of the mayor as she took office in January, eager to kick-start her ambitious goals for air quality initiatives, sustainability, housing and more.

Today, as COVID-19 challenges the world — transforming everyday life and casting indefinitely dark economic clouds — the new mayor now leads Salt Lake City in a completely different reality than she did when she was sworn in less than four months ago.

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“It’s definitely unexpected,” Mendenhall told the Deseret News in an interview Tuesday, the 100-day marker into her first term as mayor. “Life is unpredictable.”

And yet, Mendenhall said she feels “full and grateful” she and her team are equipped with “institutional knowledge” to face the challenges ahead.

Fresh off of a grueling campaign, Mendenhall said she feels like she’s an “athlete” that hasn’t let up on training. She likened it to an old pastime of hers — boxing.

“It reminds me of that movement. You’re on your toes, you’re anticipating the next move, you’re planning your own move,” Mendenhall said. “And in this experience, all of those muscles, so to speak, are being used again.”

Political pundits say it’s too soon to know what kind of political implications the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will have for Mendenhall.

“No elected official wants to deal with two emergencies — an earthquake and a pandemic — in their first 100 days, two really difficult things to go through and to see your citizens and residents go through,” said Morgan Lyon Cotti, associate director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

“Elected leaders usually get too much credit and too much blame for whatever major events are going on.”

The pandemic’s economic storm clouds could spell trouble for the Mendenhall, depending on what the future has in store for Salt Lake City and how businesses and residents may suffer, said University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank.

But the time of crisis also gives the new mayor an opportunity to shine, Cotti said.

“It’s often in times of crisis that we truly see what type of leader a person is, and we can see how people can rise to the challenge and how others cannot,” Cotti said.

As a mayor who pledged to be accessible, COVID-19’s social distancing requirements presented a new challenge for Mendenhall. But she’s attempted to stay connected with residents by posting near daily videos of herself discussing happenings and what residents should be doing to stay safe.

Burbank noted the pandemic’s challenges are giving politicians opportunity to control their own narratives and messages with more ease. But he and Cotti credited Mendenhall for being a steady and reassuring voice in a frightening time.

“We’ve seen before the pandemic and even back through the election, she has this calming way of talking, she likes one-on-one conversations, likes interpersonal connection, and I think we’re seeing her try to replicate that as best she can through social media,” Cotti said.

Cotti likened the mayor’s posts to “modern-day fireside chats that give people reassurance they’re looking for” while also “leading by example, showing Salt Lake City residents that she’s home, that she’s following the advice of the city and following her own direction.”

Mendenhall also coordinated with Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson on more strict stay-at-home citywide and countywide orders in the absence of a statewide one, both advocating for a statewide stay-at-home order while publicly maintaining an amicable relationship with Gov. Gary Herbert.

“At this point it’s too early to tell how all this works out,” Burbank said, but added, “I think she’s going to get relatively good marks from voters in the future for her willingness” to work with the county and state while using her platform to communicate with residents.

Mendenhall said her focus is not on how she might be politically impacted by the pandemic — but rather “how to get food into the hands of families that are most impacted” by the virus and children who won’t return to schools for the rest of the year.

“I’m trying to work authentically and from my heart to connect with people when we all need connection more than ever before,” she said. “I’m not trying to channel something that isn’t already in me.”

Mendenhall celebrated her 100-day milestone Tuesday by issuing a list of accomplishments, from opening the Sugar House temporary homeless shelter, updating a city policy to require every department to make decisions through a sustainability lens, kick-starting negotiations to move up the city’s transition to 100% renewable sources, working with state leaders on a compromise to the Utah Inland Port Authority, securing funding to plant 1,000 new trees in west-side neighborhoods, and more.

“These achievements are thanks to the work of talented and dedicated city staff and our community partners,” Mendenhall said in a prepared statement. “Even in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, we haven’t stopped working toward building the city of our dreams.”

But with COVID-19’s long-term economic impacts on the horizon, fiscal teams are predicting tax revenue to drop, which could have widespread impact on governments at every level. It’s too early to say how deeply those impacts will hit Salt Lake City’s budget, which will seek federal reimbursement for COVID-19-related expenses. But those shortfalls could foil some big-ticket initiatives.

It’s not lost on the mayor that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought major complications to her goals heading into her first term. But she’s rolling with the punches.

Last month, Mendenhall said she had some “really cool ideas” for more than $13 million in one-time extra city revenue thanks to above-budget collections, but she and the Salt Lake City Council decided to set aside much of that revenue for COVID-19 emergency response.

While Mendenhall said she’s disappointed that revenue couldn’t be used for other initiatives, she said, in an odd twist of fate, that extra revenue came at a perfect time so Salt Lake City could respond to the pandemic.

“It sure would have been nice to have that one-time money ... but this is what I signed up to do, which is take what comes and make the best of it for our city,” Mendenhall said.

“I could pine on everything I’d hoped to achieve in the coming year,” the mayor said, “but I also believe there will be greater opportunities I could have imagined before.”

The mayor said today’s challenging times “isn’t a new normal” but rather a “new now,” and she believes Salt Lake City can still “grow.” When it’s time for Salt Lake City to begin reopening, Mendenhall said there will be opportunities for residents, businesses and leaders to “make some choices about the way we come back.”

“As a city, I want us to take advantage of all the opportunities that will be there that we may not even yet see to be more of who we want to be,” she said. “So there will be loss through this, but there will also be opportunities for transformation.”