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Former Livingston Mayor Doris Lew Beck.

Doris Beck, first woman mayor of Livingston, dies at 91

As a Democrat in Watergate year, Beck led ticket for first majority in local history

By David Wildstein, July 14 2020 2:05 am

Doris L. Beck, the first woman to serve as mayor of Livingston, died on July 12.  She was 91.

During her eight years in local government, Beck pushed for open space preservation and opposed a county flood control plan that she felt would have been to Livingston’s detriment. 

She began her involvement in local politics as president of the Livingston League of Women Voters from 1963 to 1965 and as New Jersey League of Women Voters state vice president from 1971 to 1973

Beck was elected to the township council in 1974, riding local popularity and the Watergate wave to the first Democratic majority in Livingston history.

Her campaign centered around a call for a two-party system in local government to end the all-Republican hold..

She was the top vote-getter in that race, running more than 600 votes ahead of her running mates, Donald S. Coburn and Dominick Crincoli.  Two Republican incumbents lost their bids for third terms:  Peter Cooper trailed by about 275 votes, and Kenneth W. Welch was defeated by around 850 votes.  A third Republican, Carl Sulzberger, ran 20 votes behind Welch.

In that race, Beck also received more votes than the candidates for Congress, freeholder and county register.  

With a new Democratic majority, Beck became the mayor in 1975 and again in 1978.

In her 1978 re-election bid, Beck was re-elected by about 2,000 votes and was again the top vote-getter in the municipal election.  She received just slightly fewer votes than Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R-Bernardsville), but outpolled the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Bill Bradley.

Democrats won Livingston council seats for the first time in 1964, shifting the Republican majority to 3-3.  They held the seats in 1968, but Livingston returned to 5-0 in 1972 when James Isherwood and C. David Geer won seats being vacated by Democrats who did not seek re-election.

With the exception of a two-year period in the 1980s, Democrats have held the majority on the council since Beck’s first election.

“She was the President of the Livingston League of Women Voters when I first became a member. She was elected with Dominick Crincoli and Don Coburn to take Democratic control of the council in 1974 for the first time in 150 years,” said Essex County Freeholder Patricia Sebold, who has served as Livingston Democratic Municipal Chair since Beck’s first term in office.  “Fortunately, that was the first Livingston campaign I worked on, and it was a fantastic victory. We were fortunate to have Doris Beck in Livingston.”

In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy praised Beck’s career and service.

“Doris Beck was a trailblazer. An educator who focused on local issues and good government, she served Livingston with distinction as a councilwoman and as mayor,” said Murphy.  “Her many charitable pursuits further forged what is now a legacy of service. She was a role model in every sense.”


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