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John Callahan looks back on ten years, says he's not done

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 13 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 14 2013 09:27:31 PM CST

The finish line is in sight for the man who's held the reins of the Christmas City for the past decade.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

The finish line is in sight for the man who's held the reins of the Christmas City for the past decade.

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan delivered his final state of the city address this morning and then he sat down to talk about the ups and downs of the past 10 years.

Callahan says he's really not ready to reflect on his time in office because he still has a lot he wants to do in his final ten months.

For now he's pleased with the what is happening in the Christmas City.

John Callahan remembers what it was like meeting other mayors nationwide in 2004 when he first took office.

“They would get this kind of sad look in their eye and put their hand on my shoulder with this sort of it will be okay mayor," said Callahan. "I know you are going through tough times.”

Bethlehem Steel was not the economic powerhouse anymore and the city was saddled with debt.

“It was either sink or swim. We were all in this together,” added Callahan.

Turning around the city's finances called for layoffs, tax increases, and other measures.

“They were tough decisions. It required leadership, stepping up and doing the right thing despite however difficult it was,” he said.

Then growth started, small businesses, the Sands Bethlehem Casino, new technology partnerships and the development of ArtsQuest at the Steel Stacks.

Callahan says he may get credit for creating tax districts but he says community partnerships helped the Christmas City.

“You've got to celebrate your downtowns," said Callahan. "You've got to celebrate what makes you unique.”

The mayor has ten months left in office.

He says the city is in good shape to have a third straight year with a budget surplus.

John Callahan also says 20 years from now he'll be able to tell his grandkids how the thriving city started its comeback when he was Mayor.

"We all want to live a life that made a difference and a life that had an impact. So it's great to look back on this last decade and feel good that it's going to be an interesting ride with the grandkids in the car," he said.

Callahan says he not done with politics yet.

He has already announced he is running for the position of Northampton County executive in November.