Epic Battles No. 11: Boyer raises Democratic flag over Shamokin
Way back when, there was a Democratic mayor of Shamokin. But that was so long ago, most people under the age of 50 have no recollection of it.
That's why Harvey Boyer's victory in November 1985 was such a big deal. He was only the second Democratic mayor of Shamokin in its then-35-year history as a city, the first being Thomas F. Landy in 1950.
Boyer's election was doubly historic. In addition to being the first Democrat to be elected mayor in 36 years, Boyer was the first Democratic mayor ever to preside over a Democratic-controlled city council. In 1985, Democratic council candidates were also swept into office, along with Boyer. When Landy was mayor, he looked around the council table and saw Republicans.
Boyer had first sought the mayoralty in 1981, but lost to William Rickert, who did not seek re-election in 1985.
Boyer's likability was a major factor in his impressive election victory, but the fact was, Shamokin, once a Republican bastion, had come a long way politically in just a few years. As late as 1977, Republicans held a lead of 1,200 in voter registrations in the city. As of November 1985, the GOP lead had dwindled to just 536.
Boyer skillfully capitalized on growing public uneasiness about the Shamokin area's economic prospects. A cartoon labeled "Shamokin Lost Another Big Industry" was featured in Boyer's newspaper ads. The cartoon showed people watching an Arrow Company truck leave the area for the south. Boyer cited the city's high unemployment, downtown parking and traffic problems, high taxes and the declining industrial base as evidence that it was time for a change.
Another memorable advertisement, titled "We Ask Everyone to Vote for Our Pop-Pop," showed the photos of Boyer's six young grandchildren. That didn't hurt in swaying undecided voters either.
The Republican nominee in 1985, Malcom C. Farrow IV, was a hard-working and highly productive member of city council. Unfortunately for him, 1985 was not a Republican year in Shamokin; Democrats' time had come. Boyer won by about 500 votes.
Boyer's election, far from being a fluke, ushered in what became a Democratic renaissance in the city. Four of the next six mayoralty elections were won by Democrats.
Boyer was a driving force behind Shamokin's 125th anniversary celebration in 1989. He also led the successful effort to secure funding for downtown revitalization projects.
Boyer was re-elected in 1989, but died, at age 60, on Oct. 22, 1993, near the end of his second term.