The addition of Diane Kelly and Michael Wolk to the Board of Commissioners just 15 months ago has added intrigue and potential change in direction in the fifth largest municipality in Lehigh County. For voters who have watched this board in action during this time, it is obvious the issues are less about party affiliation than it is about development, fiscal oversight and transparency. May 18 is sure to bring out more voters than normal as the candidates draw distinction among themselves and battle lines are drawn.
The Democrat ballot features Joe Setton, appointed in 2019 to fill a vacancy on the board, and Tom Johns, a former commissioner with close ties to the community.
The Republican ballot, however, is contested and will be interesting.
Board President Christina “Tori” Morgan has served on the Board of Commissioners since 2008, the last 8 years as board president. She heads a now-familiar 3-2 majority of the board. She was a leading proponent of the controversial Ridge Farm development made possible by a creative “overlay district” approved in 2014. She is also a supporter of other large developments. Most recently, she has overseen negotiations that resulted in the first labor strike in South Whitehall since the 1980’s. She undoubtedly will be a target for those voters who disapprove of her leadership on these and other issues. Other voters will see the positives she emphasizes and provide critical support in her re-election effort.
Her competition on the Republican ballot are newcomers Monica Hodges and David Kennedy. Hodges is the co-founder of the South Whitehall Concerned Citizens, which formed in 2017 as a forum for residents to express their views concerning Ridge Farms. This has since grown into a multi-issue outlet that addresses growth, preservation, township finances, and government transparency among other important topics. Kennedy has served on the Parkland School District board for 22 years and the South Whitehall Public Safety Commission for 25 years. He pledges to have developers comply with land development ordinances while also preserving farmland and green space.
I would like to provide the opportunity for the candidates to respond to 5-7 questions on this blog, but before doing so, thought it would be good to see what you think should be asked of the candidates. Each candidate will be asked the same questions.
Updated 9:24 am, to indicate S Whitehall is fifth, not third, largest municipality in Lehigh.