Former longtime Youngstown Clerk of Courts Rosemary Durkin, the first woman elected to a citywide position, has died.
Durkin “was a trailblazer,” said Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras.
Durkin, who died Saturday at age 84, paved the way for other women in the county to run for elected office, he said.
“She broke the glass ceiling for a lot of women, and did so by beating the good-old-boy network,” Betras said.
Durkin, a Democrat, was hired by the clerk of court’s office as a deputy clerk in August 1946, two months after graduating from Ursuline High School.
She was promoted to chief deputy and assistant clerk for the court’s civil branch by then-Clerk of Courts George Vukovich. She was the first woman to hold that high of a position in the court.
When the clerk position became vacant in 1975, Durkin beat Nick Palazzo, the county Democratic Party-endorsed candidate, in the June primary and won the November general election that year.
It was the first of her four six-year terms.
She unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1979, finishing third in a seven-person Democratic primary.
Durkin remained clerk of courts and would go on to be re-elected in 1981, 1987 and 1993.
During her 24 years in office, she clashed with mayors and city councils over funding of her department, winning a number of court battles.
“She was one of the best politicians — very tough, but very compassionate,” said Patrick Ungaro, Youngstown mayor from 1984 to 1997, who added he and Durkin had many political battles, but respected each other.
“She wasn’t afraid to make decisions, and did so with the best intentions,” said Ungaro, currently Liberty Township administrator. “She was a tough politician, but I respected her.”
Michael Morley, county Democratic Party chairman from 1994 to 1999, said Durkin “was a good friend. But more than anything, she cared deeply about the city of Youngstown and the people that she served. She was an extraordinarily dedicated public servant and always focused her time and attention on her office and the people in the city.”
Durkin chose not to run for re-election in 1999. She was inducted into the county Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame in 2010.