By Lou Bernard
April 11, 2013
Lock Haven has been through thirty-five mayors since it was incorporated as a city in 1870. Some of them have been notable: Levi Mackey was the first, Charles Sperring was the only independent, Seymour D. Ball was the one who looked most like a movie star, and so on. Charles Herr was the only mayor to serve three non-consecutive terms, which led to Harry Swope.
Swope’s term was the shortest. Out of all the mayors, Swope was in and out of office fastest. He lasted three months.
This came about through an interesting set of circumstances. Swope was the head of city council in 1955, serving under immensely popular mayor Charles E. Herr. On September 30, 1955, Herr resigned due to failing health three months short of the end of his term. He’d been sick throughout the summer, and couldn’t handle the duties of his office anymore.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans had already selected their candidates locally, and they were prepared for the election in just over a month. But someone needed to fill in the last three months of the term, and the job fell to Harry Swope.Who was away on vacation when this all happened.
Herr tried to call Swope to give him some warning, but couldn’t locate him, as Swope was out of town. Herr sent a letter to him—It was the fifties, and e-mail hadn’t been invented yet—But Swope came back from vacation without checking his official mail. So, in early October of 1955, Harry Swope came home to find himself the mayor, which he discovered by reading it in the newspaper.
Swope served his three months, and didn’t accomplish as much as some of the longer-term mayors. He continued Mayor Herr’s policy of keeping taxes down. And in January, he graciously stepped aside to welcome the newly-elected Douglas Peddie as mayor.
Swope died two years later, in December of 1957, just two weeks after Charles Herr. His portrait hangs in city council chambers among the other men who have served as mayor of Lock Haven since 1870. Which is pretty impressive, when you think about it, considering he put in a fraction of the time they did.
Lou Bernard is the Adult Services Coordinator at Ross Library and can be contacted at email@example.com