Bethlehem’s Municipal Elections take place Nov. 2. There are four candidates running for City Council: Hillary Kwiatek, Rachel Leon, Grace Crampsie Smith and Kiera Wilhelm (Viola Chen/B&W Staff)

Bethlehem City Council candidates plan to address community issues following the election


Bethlehem’s municipal elections will take place on Nov. 2, with four seats up for grabs on city council and four candidates running.

After primary elections in May, Hillary Kwiatek, Rachel Leon, Grace Crampsie Smith and Kiera Wilhelm are the candidates for Bethlehem City Council.

Bethlehem City Council acts as a legislative branch of the city government, creating policies and addressing issues to improve the community. The council includes seven members serving four-year terms.

Crampsie Smith said she previously served on the council for a two-year term and is now prepared to serve a four-year term. Crampsie Smith said she is passionate about inclusion and equality, and she is especially eager to address affordable housing.

In the past few years, the city of Bethlehem has experienced more high-end and luxury living developments and not enough opportunities for the working class, Crampsie Smith said.

“I think it’s so important that we advocate for all income levels, and we have an inclusive Bethlehem so everybody can live here and people who were born and raised here can stay here and can afford a house,” Crampsie Smith said. “I’ve heard stories where that’s not the case.”

Crampsie Smith is currently a guidance counselor at Easton High School and said she has lived in Northampton County for over 30 years.

Coming from a family with a history in politics and working on campaigns in the past, Crampsie Smith said she has always had a desire to get involved.

Kwiatek, another city council candidate and Lehigh University communications specialist in the Human Resources Department has been living in Bethlehem for 21 years. 

Kwiatek said she strongly believes in The Climate Action Plan, as well as equity and inclusion in public safety. 

“It’s important to ensure economic development includes good jobs for people without college degrees,’ Kwiatek said.

Before working in communications, Kwiatek worked for nonprofit organizations and has volunteered on campaigns since she was a teenager. 

“I’ve always felt that being involved in politics, being involved in electing good people, was a way to have a positive impact on my community,” Kwiatek said. 

Wilhelm attended Moravian College and moved back to Bethlehem in 2013. 

Wilhelm said she met many citizens and small business owners through her work for Fig Magazine, a publication focused on celebrating the Bethlehem community and uplifting the local economy.

“I just had the opportunity to meet so many people, and people actually started asking me sometimes, what can you do about this in Bethlehem, or who can do something about this?” Wilhelm said. “I just thought, I love this city, I hear all these questions and concerns, and I want to do more.”

Wilhelm is hoping to help the city and small businesses move beyond the pandemic and implement the $34 million in American Rescue Plan funding, she said.

Wilhelm is also supporting the Climate Action Plan, hoping to make Bethlehem a lot more accessible in terms of walking and biking, as well as energizing parks and outdoor spaces, she said.

Wilhelm wants to prioritize affordable housing and inclusion. She said Bethlehem has been selected as one of five cities nationwide to participate in a workshop run by NYU to tackle the issue of homelessness and affordable housing and come up with a comprehensive plan.

In an interview with The Brown and White in March of 2021, Leon said she was born and raised in Bethlehem, attending Freedom High School. 

After high school, she said she joined the United States Navy, then worked at a non-profit in Hawaii before coming back to Bethlehem. She said she was attending Northampton Community College to pursue a degree in global studies with a focus on environmental sustainability. 

The four candidates will officially take on their council positions in January, working for the good of the city of Bethlehem.

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