The biggest challenge facing Bethlehem is continuing to make its neighborhoods appealing to middle-class families, according to City Councilman J. William Reynolds, who officially announced his candidacy for mayor on Tuesday.
He made the announcement surrounded by about 50 supporters on the front steps of his Elizabeth Avenue home to emphasize his commitment to neighborhoods as he kicked off his campaign.
“Every day families make decisions,” Reynolds said. “‘Should we move to Bethlehem? Should we stay in Bethlehem? Should we send our kids to school in Bethlehem?’
“For the past 15 years, Bethlehem has had leaders who led from the front, who were willing to take chances, and, most of all, do whatever we had to do to move our city forward.”
Reynolds thus tries to cast himself in the mold of the last two men to be elected mayor – Don Cunningham and John Callahan.
Both were young councilmen before they became mayor. And both, Reynolds said after his announcement speech, offered the city a new kind of leadership it needed after Bethlehem Steel closed.
Reynolds noted that he grew up on the streets near where he currently lives – the neighborhood near the north campus of Moravian College.
“As a child, my friends and I rode our bikes on these streets, played baseball in our parks, and walked wherever we needed to go,” Reynolds said. “It was growing up in these neighborhoods that convinced me that Bethlehem would always be my home.”
A Democrat, Reynolds, 31, became the youngest city councilman in Bethlehem history when he took office in 2008. He is a 1999 graduate of Liberty High School and received his bachelor’s degree from Moravian College in 2003. He is a social studies teacher at William Allen High School in Allentown.
Fellow Councilman Robert Donchez, also a Democrat and now serving his fifth term on City Council, is expected to announce his candidacy later this month.
It is unclear at this point whether anyone else intends to run. Nominating petitions can begin circulating on Feb. 19.
Callahan will finish his second full term at the end of this year. Two terms is the maximum amount of time anyone can serve continuously under Bethlehem’s home rule charter.