Epic Battles No. 21: Spurr shocked Joyce in Mount Carmel
In 1969, Larry Joyce was completing his eighth year as mayor of Mount Carmel, and he was hoping for four more. He wasn't counting on Dorothy Spurr to put a kibosh to his plans.
Spurr didn't exactly come out of nowhere. By the spring of 1969, she had served in local elective office for a decade, first as borough auditor and then as a member of borough council, representing the Fourth Ward. She made history by being the first woman to be elected to council and
the first woman to run for mayor.
Spurr was the master of campaign advertising in an era where the print ad was an art form. "I'd Rather be Criticized for Doing Right" was the heading on one of her ads in the spring of 1969. Another was, "If you never get in a fight for what you think is right, you'll never win." The ads were large blocks that were filled with type; Spurr liked to make effective use of each and every column inch. Her ad copy was well-written and strangely riveting.
In the '69 primary, Spurr lambasted Joyce for unpaid parking meter fines in the borough, which she said amounted to a loss of $76,000 over a four-month period, problems with supervision of police officers and what she described as exorbitant tax collection costs.
It was one of the most spirited election campaigns the borough ever saw. Spurr's role as the "taxpayer watchdog" resonated with a large segment of the electorate. She had the opposition (portrayed as "good old boys") on the ropes, and she won the primary by 104 votes. Her dream of winning the mayoralty never came to fruition, however, since she lost in November to Republican Albert Geslock. Geslock himself won his nomination in a squeaker over Joseph "Gong" Mirarchi, following a recount of Republican primary votes.
Two years later, Spurr was elected to the Mount Carmel Area School Board in the first at-large election held in the school district. Mirarchi, too, eventually wound up on the school board in 1975.
Joyce came back to serve four more terms as mayor. He won four-year terms in 1977, 1985, 1989 and 1993. He has the distinction of serving as Mount Carmel's chief executive during parts of four decades.