Longtime former Harrisburg mayor dies at 70

In this file photo, former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed talks to reporters after his arrest on theft, bribery, corruption and other charges. (Diana Robinson/WITF)

In this file photo, former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed talks to reporters after his arrest on theft, bribery, corruption and other charges. (Diana Robinson/WITF)

Former Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed, who served for almost three decades but was later sentenced to probation for accumulating Wild West artifacts he bought with public money for a museum that was never built, has died. He was 70.

A statement from the family reported by PennLive.com said Reed died Saturday “surrounded by his family.”

“Reed was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and fought it courageously,” the statement said. “The family asks for privacy during (this) difficult time. Funeral arrangements will be made available when confirmed.”

Reed served seven terms but lost the 2009 primary amid criticism over the millions of dollars he had spent on museum-related items. He and city officials scoured the country for artifacts that would stock the museum, which he had called part of a wider plan to make the city a museum destination for tourists.

He pleaded guilty in 2017 to 20 counts of receiving stolen property and was sentenced to two years of probation in the courthouse around the corner from his onetime mayoral offices. Reed apologized and told the judge he took responsibility for his actions, calling his prosecution “a gut-wrenchingly humiliating” process.

All of the charges involved photos or documents, a small portion of some 1,800 items investigators seized from his properties two years earlier. The judge said the sentence took into account Reed’s cancer diagnosis as well as his guilty plea, his lack of a criminal record and his efforts to improve the city over 28 years as mayor.

Reed, a Democrat, was born in 1949 and first elected to the state House in 1975, where he served until 1980. He served as mayor from 1982 until 2010.

Current mayor Eric Papenfuse said flags would fly at half-staff at city properties in honor of the mayor’s “life of service.”

“Mayor Reed dedicated his life to the citizens of Harrisburg and central Pennsylvania,” he said. “His transformative vision left an indelible mark on every major development project in our capital for over a generation. … On behalf of our city, I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”

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