In the upcoming Northampton County Municipal Election on Nov. 2, Democrat J. William Reynolds and Republican John Kachmar are running against each other for the position of mayor of Bethlehem.
Both candidates are Bethlehem natives with differing plans for the city.
Reynolds has sat on Bethlehem’s City Council since 2008 when he was elected as the city’s youngest councilmember. He also held the title of city council president from 2014 to 2018. Reynolds said he prides himself on the work he has done on the Climate Action Plan and the North Side 2027 neighborhood revitalization plan.
Reynolds said job creation, economic revitalization, sustainability and neighborhood investment are the areas he is focusing on in his campaign for mayor. He said he is looking forward to a reimagined city that will maintain the high quality of life that Bethlehem currently offers.
Kachmar is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps. During his professional career, he was the founding executive director of Lehigh Valley Manpower, which is now known as the Workforce Development Board. He said he has also held municipal and county administrator positions in five different states: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia, throughout his career.
Kachmar’s campaign website said he is campaigning with a focus on “sound fiscal management, low taxes, business growth and delivery of efficient city services.” He said he takes issue with the current leadership in city hall and wants to focus on the present problems he recognizes in Bethlehem before investing in new ones.
In an interview with The Brown and White, Reynolds said the pandemic has drawn attention to systemic issues in certain areas in Bethlehem, such as healthcare systems and access to technology.
“I think one of the things that we need to do as we exit the pandemic is to build a more equitable Bethlehem,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said he prides himself on the economic revitalization work he has done while on city council. He said he wants to continue this work in order to invest in Bethlehem neighborhoods, families and businesses.
Reynolds said in the past, the city has used public economic development incentives to work with private investors to put properties back on the tax rolls to create jobs, which is something he plans to continue.
Another part of this mission is bringing people to the downtown sectors of Bethlehem to support the city’s small businesses, he said. Reynold emphasized the importance of partnership within the city to bring together different groups and institutions in order to achieve common goals.
Kachmar is running for mayor as a concerned citizen who wants “balance and fairness,” he said. Being 73, he said he is not interested in starting a political career. Rather, he said he is interested in providing a Republican perspective in a position that has been Democratic for the past 25 years.
Kachmar said he takes issue with the city’s financial insecurity and tax increases. He said he wants to limit revenue hunting to maintain Bethlehem’s history.
“Let’s not forget our history from the early 1600s,” Kachmar said, “And, let’s not invade those spaces that are historically prominent.”
When speaking on public safety, he addressed past city council conversations on defunding the Bethlehem police, calling them “foolish.”
The mayoral candidate shared his idea for an economic development partnership to include a relationship between the public and private sectors of Bethlehem. He emphasized this would be done without tax dollars.
Lehigh professor of political science and the environmental initiative, Breena Holland, spoke on the importance of becoming informed on political issues and getting involved in local elections like this one.
“I don’t think voting is enough,” Holland said.
She said she has been involved in local politics, mainly surrounding environmental issues, for the past 10 years. In her classroom, Holland engages her students with local environmental policy through projects and research.
She said students need to get involved by understanding the policy politicians are promoting. Local elections give students the opportunity to have a bigger impact, she said.
“The thing that’s really different about local politics than national politics is that you can actually get access to these people and show up to local meetings,” Holland said, “The sooner you learn about the issues, and see the problems that need to be addressed, so you can vote in informed ways, the better.”