For David Spurgeon, who grew up in McKeesport and was the first in his family to go to college and law school, public service has long been a part of his life.
His adage, passed down from his mother and taken from the Book of Luke, has always been, "That to which much is given, much is expected.“
Mr. Spurgeon took that love for service and has turned it in to a successful career with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office, where he has served for the last five years as a deputy over the domestic violence unit. He also supervises attorneys in mental health and veterans courts and those practicing in municipal court.
He learned this week that he is the first prosecutor in the county to be given the Edward G. O’Connor Fellows Award, which annually recognizes an attorney’s professional, charitable and public service activities.
"He really understands domestic violence dynamics and issues,” said Lorraine Bittner, who is co-chair with Mr. Spurgeon on the Allegheny County Domestic Violence Task Force. “He’s extremely knowledgeable about what it takes to keep victims safe and hold batterers accountable.”
She praised Mr. Spurgeon’s energy level. He not only conducts domestic violence prevention training programs for law enforcement and advocates, but for the community, as well.
"He goes above and beyond just being the prosecutor in the courtroom,“ said Ms. Bittner, who has worked with Mr. Spurgeon for about 10 years. ”He’s taken a leadership role.“
”It can be easy to get burned out or become jaded,“ added Barbara Griffin, who nominated Mr. Spurgeon. ”He’s still dedicated and passionate.“
Mr. Griffin, the director of the Pro Bono Center, a program of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation, said typically, an attorney can only become a fellow by donating $1,200 over four years. But the O’Connor award is designed to recognize those in public service who typically earn a lesser wage.
"I was very humbled by it -- for someone to recognize the contributions I’m making,” he said.
Mr. Spurgeon, 43, of White Oak, volunteers at a number of different organizations and serves on several boards, including the Center for Victims and the White Oak Animal Safe Haven no-kill shelter.
He also recently participated in the creation of the Intimate Partner Violence Review Team, which reviews all domestic violence homicides in Allegheny County to see what lessons can be learned from them.
In addition, Mr. Spurgeon is active in the Beulah Park United Methodist Church and can occasionally be found at McKeesport’s International Village food festival doling out apple dumplings. He also teaches as an adjunct at the Duquesne School of Law and Point Park University.
"Public service is something I’ve dedicated my life to,” he said. “I’ve always thought my job here was to leave it better than I found it.”
Mr. Spurgeon was hired in the DA’s office in 1998, and became one of the youngest ever to become a deputy district attorney in 2009. He’s often a go-to person from District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., particularly in projects relating to domestic violence.
“I have been fortunate throughout my administration to consistently have staff who are skilled and passionate about what we do every day,” Mr. Zappala said. “David is a fine example of that and a strong advocate for the victims of domestic violence.”
The award will be presented to Mr. Spurgeon at a dinner on Sept. 16.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.