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Bethlehem City Council taps Cathy Reuscher to fill two-year vacancy

Published On: Feb 03 2014 08:34:59 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 04 2014 06:28:37 AM EST
Cathy Reuscher

Bethlehem City Council tapped 34-year-old Cathy Reuscher Monday night to fill the two-year vacancy left when Mayor Robert Donchez was elected as the city's chief executive last November.

Reuscher, a policy maker for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Bethlehem, was elected to fill the open council seat on City Council's first ballot by a simple 3-2-1 majority vote.

Voting for Reuscher were council president J. William Reynolds, Adam Waldron and Michael Recchiuti.


Sonia Vazquez received two votes and David Sanders got one vote. Ron Heckman, Lynn Rothman and Thomas Miller also received nominations.

Reuscher will be sworn in at Tuesday night's Bethlehem City Council meeting and her term will run through the end of 2015.

She said she decided to apply for City Council when she realized the south side of the city had no representative on the council.

"I feel like this is an honor and I'm going to earn it over the next two years," said Reuscher, who earned her college degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

"I'm going to focus on sustainable development in the downtown area and improving walkability. Those are the two focuses I'm going to have," she said.

Resucher stressed the need for a downtown grocery store that is within walking distance of residents.

Reuscher would have to run for election to City Council in the May 2015 primary. She said that wasn't her original intention for seeking the open seat, but also stated she hasn't ruled out an election campaign.

On Jan. 30, council met for six hours interviewing 11 candidates for the vacant seat.

Each candidate was interviewed for about 30 minutes by five council members.

Diversity was the watchword that all City Council members used when explaining their decision for their appointment criteria.

"This was a next to impossible decision," Reynolds said. "What we need to have is representation from all sides of the city. What could we do to bring diversity to the council and what could we bring that we didn't have. It was a tough decision between Ms. Reuscher and Ms. (Sonia) Vazquez."

Vazquez, a Bethlehem native and principal of Donegan Community Elementary School, had the support of council vice-president Karen Dolan and Eric Evans.

She was thought to be the front-runner, because she would give a voice to Bethlehem's growing Latino community.

"We need diversity. Diversity is not a dirty word," Dolan said. "Never ignore diversity and (council) is lacking it."

Reynolds urged the citizens who sought the open seat -- including Ronald Heckman, a Northampton County Council member for more than eight years -- and Sanders, who narrowly lost a City Council campaign last year, to continue their quest for public service.

"There are lots of board and commissions in the city," Reynolds said. "The people who don't get the council seat tonight should think about approaching Mayor Donchez for an appointment on those boards and commissions."