Bethlehem Councilman Bryan Callahan rules out mayoral run, seeks 3rd council term

Bethlehem City Council Bryan Callahan has decided not to run for mayor and is instead planning a third term as city councilor.

There has long been speculation that Callahan would challenge his counterpart J. William Reynolds in the Democratic primary Reynolds, and former city administrator Dana Grubb is vying for the party’s nomination in the May 18 election.

“In the past year, I’ve met many residents, homeowners, business owners and union leaders who have encouraged me to run for mayor,” Callahan said on Wednesday. “However, the time for me to run for mayor is not the right time.”

The Bethlehem Area School District teacher and small business owner plans instead to run for his third term of four years. He noted that he recently opened the Callahan Driving School and Testing Center with his brother and former Mayor John Callahan.

“This new business will take a significant amount of my time to ensure its success,” said Callahan. “While it would have been the honor of your life to be mayor of our great city, this is a full-time commitment and so I will not put my name on the ballot for mayor of Bethlehem.”

There are currently four places available at this year’s city race. Callahan, Council Chairman Adam Waldron and Councilor Grace Crampsie Smith are seeking re-election. City councilor Olga Negron has decided not to look for a third thermal. The incumbents are currently facing three Democratic challengers: West Bethlehem-based communications specialist at Lehigh University, Hillary Kwiatek; Fig Bethlehem director Kiera Wilhelm and Southside resident Rachel Leon.

Callahan noted his role on the council’s finance committee and efforts to introduce and pass an equal pay ordinance to prevent gender pay inequality and a ban on gifts for employees, elected and appointed officials. He also noted his support for improvements to the rose garden in West Bethlehem and the municipal golf course.

“I struggled to keep taxes in check and by refinancing some high-yield debt, Standard & Poor’s went from a stable BBB rating to a stable A + rating four times for the city of Bethlehem in just five years” said Callahan voted against most tax increases during his tenure.

Callahan’s sponsored ethics training for city council members, the Community Engagement Initiative and Open Data Push, the Climate Action Plan, and the North Side 2027 Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. He also pointed to his support for public safety funding, such as two new fire engines, he said.

Next month Callahan plans to introduce “a new regulation that will give local businesses, particularly minority, women and veteran-owned businesses, an edge in applying for local jobs,” he said.

Some seem to believe that Bethlehem’s rebirth and renaissance was a natural evolution over the past 20 years, he said.

“That’s just not true,” said Callahan. “There are small towns in the Northeast and Midwest that are examples of what happens when you don’t have progressive, forward-looking leadership willing to keep pushing for better.”

Callahan pledged to continue to support “smart” economic development to increase the city’s tax base, keep neighborhoods safe, and ensure compliance to keep Bethlehem affordable.

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Sara K. Satullo can be reached at [email protected]

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