City Trivia Tuesday: The Man Who Was Mayor for 10 Minutes

According to legend, Joseph Spinney, who served on the city's board of trustees, was infamous for being an illiterate and corrupt building contractor in the city of Fresno. Through corruption and the promotion of shady interests in the city (like gambling, booze, prostitution, etc.), he gained considerable influence. Through this influence, he was able to secure more business for himself and his contract company, and determine the hiring of certain political figures, police officers and firemen.

Through his political power and his willingness to get ahead at any cost, Spinney quickly became chairman of the board in 1893, which at the time was the equivalent of being mayor of the city. 

Legend says that he held the position for only 10 minutes before resigning and allowing someone else to take over the position. Despite his incredibly short time as mayor, he still is named by many as the “most corrupt politician in Fresno history,” and went on to further influence city matters.

For instance, when serving as a trustee within the city in May 1898, he used his political power to cause a total blackout in Fresno after being frustrated with the city’s electricity bill. He moved that the city turn off all of its power in the summer months to save money, and when asked when this suggestion would be implemented, he answered “right away.” He ordered the city clerk to tell the electric company, and the electricity was shut off completely not long after.


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