Bob Donchez was sworn in as the 11th mayor in the city’s history on Monday morning, pledging in his inaugural address to “be a tireless advocate for the citizens of Bethlehem.”
A standing-room-only crowd packed Town Hall to watch Northampton County President Judge Stephen G. Baratta administer the oath of office to Donchez, a retired teacher and son of a Bethlehem police detective who has served on City Council for more than 20 years.
“I will come to work every day asking myself one basic question: What can I do to make Bethlehem a better city?” Donchez said.
Those on hand included U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent; state Rep. Steve Samuelson; Michael Schweder, a former City Council colleague and state representative; Curtis “Hank” Barnette, the last chief executive officer at Bethlehem Steel, and Don Cunningham, the former mayor,ex-Lehigh County executive and current president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, Donchez’s lifelong friend and campaign manager, served as master of ceremonies.
Donchez credited and named his predecessors—dating back four decades to Gordon Mowrer and up to and including John Callahan—with managing the negative effects that the decline and demise of Bethlehem Steel caused for the city.
“Bethlehem is the jewel of the Lehigh Valley and it remains the jewel in no small part due to the work of my predecessors in concert with the city councils that served with them,” Donchez said.
He said he plans on continuing the important work of redeveloping the sprawling brownfield where the steel that built World War II battleships and New York’s skyscrapers was forged.
“We cannot and we must not lose the momentum we have created by continuing our commitment to the revitalization one of the largest brownfields in the country,” Donchez said.
“I stand here today to tell you as mayor, I will bring all of the powers of the office to bear so that we continue to bring responsible companies and high-paying jobs to Bethlehem.”
Donchez said his highest priority would be “to promote public safety in every neighborhood and promote economic growth for all our residents.”