Bethlehem City Council longtime council member is Democratic challenger for mayor – The Morning Call


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Bethlehem residents elected longtime council member J. William Reynolds as the Democratic challenger for mayor, while shaking up City Council with the addition of three newcomers, unseating longtime member Bryan Callahan.

Reynolds beat former City Administrator Dana Grubb by 1,540 votes, according to unofficial election results from Lehigh and Northampton counties. Reynolds will now face Republican challenger and former Lehigh County Administrator John Kachmar in the Nov. 2 general election.

According to Wednesday’s unofficial results, Reynolds secured 3,960 votes across the two counties and Grubb had 2,420.

While a familiar face may continue to lead the city over the next four years, newcomers Hillary Kwiatek, Rachel Leon and Kiera Wilhelm all won four-year seats on City Council.

Incumbent Grace Crampsie-Smith also secured another four years on council, but Callahan, who was up for his third term, trailed the other candidates, with only 3,211 votes.

Callahan didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Incumbents Olga Negron and Council President Adam Waldron did not run for reelection.

While Callahan didn’t win a seat on council, it’s possible he may be appointed to fill the remainder of Reynolds’ term, which expires in 2024. It will be up to City Council to appoint a replacement should Reynolds win the mayor’s post in the November election.

“I’m humbled by the support we received from the citizens of Bethlehem. We’ve been going door to door for the past four months talking about how we can emerge from the pandemic an even stronger city, and we are thrilled that the vision we’ve been sharing with the people is one they supported overwhelmingly,” Reynolds said Wednesday.

Reynolds said he thinks the city’s revitalization since the closure of Bethlehem Steel has been remarkable, and he hopes to continue the city’s resurgence if he is elected mayor.

They next mayor of the city will replace Robert Donchez, who because of the city’s two-term limit cannot run for reelection. Reynolds ran for mayor in 2013 against Donchez.

Donchez and several members of City Council have supported Reynolds in his latest bid for mayor, with Donchez contributing $2,500 so far to Reynolds’ campaign.

As for City Council, Crampsie-Smith secured the most votes, 4,339, with Wilhelm coming in second, with 4,329, followed by Kwiatek, with 4,041 and Leon, with 3,961, according to unofficial results from both counties.

Crampsie-Smith, 58, was appointed to council in 2009 to fulfill the four-month, unexpired term of Councilmember Shawn Martell. She went on to win a two-year term effective January 2020 that was created when Eric Evans resigned to become city business manager.

Crampsie-Smith is a proponent of assuring public health and safety, balancing economic development with housing that is inclusive and affordable, and encouraging sound fiscal management. She initiated and co-chairs the Affordable Housing Task Force, which creates recommendations to address and alleviate the lack of affordable housing for working and middle class city residents.

Wilhelm, 48, is the director of Fig Bethlehem magazine, a publication that supports and promotes local businesses and organizations in the Lehigh Valley. She said she will support issues like diversity, racial justice and equality, and promote sustainability, including the addition of green spaces in the city and improved public transportation, walkability and targets outlined in the city’s climate action plan. Wilhelm also supports increasing affordable housing options, ending housing insecurity and policies that support Bethlehem’s small-business community.

Kwiatek, 53, is a West Bethlehem resident and works at Lehigh University as a communications specialist. Her priorities include creating jobs with family-sustaining wages while recovering from the pandemic. The city must also increase the availability of quality, affordable housing, she said.

Kwiatek wants to create a partnership between the city’s public health and police departments, and she would prioritize the city’s climate action plan, creating neighborhood parks and family activities, supporting diverse small, local businesses and addressing racism and inequity in the city.

Leon is a former member of the military and a student at Northampton Community College. She has not responded to previous requests for comment.

Reynolds contributed $250 each to Crampsie-Smith, Kwiatek and Wilhelm in the months leading up to the election, according to campaign finance reports.

“We have fantastic new city councilwomen that are joining City Hall and I think all four of them are going to bring creativity, passion and new ideas to the city and I can’t wait to work with all of them,” Reynolds said Wednesday.

Morning Call reporter Christina Tatu can be reached at 610-820-6583 or [email protected].

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