Paige Van Wirt won the special appointment to the Bethlehem City Council in a 5-1 vote on March 1.
Five candidates applied for the council seat, which was left vacant when Eric Evans was appointed as Bethlehem’s business administrator. Gregory Klepeis dropped his candidacy prior to the vote.
The three other candidates were Clyde Thomas, the Bethlehem Democratic Committee chairman; Carol Ritter, a motivational speaker; and Lynn Rothman, a former employee of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the current chair of Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council.
Each candidate was given five minutes to address the council about why they should be selected to fill the seat. The council then deliberated, eventually giving nominations to Van Wirt, Rothman and Ritter. Bryan Callahan, a councilman since 2014, was the only councilperson to vote against Van Wirt, voting instead for Ritter.
Citizens were able to give public comments prior to the candidates’ presentations. Many stood up in support of Van Wirt and Ritter.
Van Wirt is a physician who also has experience in urban planning and finance. She received 1,700 votes in a write-in campaign for council last year when she challenged four incumbents.
Several council members said they simply couldn’t ignore the public support for Van Wirt. The council received 42 letters from community members showing their support for her.
Van Wirt will be sworn in at the council meeting on March 6, when she will immediately assume her role.