Don Junkins Victorious in Bethlehem Mayor’s Race

BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem voters on Tuesday elected Don Junkins to be their next mayor.

Junkins received 284 votes in Tuesday’s municipal election, while opponent Charles “Chuck” Griffin received 190. Junkins previously served 32 years as recorder for Bethlehem, and Griffin currently represents the 3rd Ward on Bethlehem City Council.

In what could be seen as an anomaly in today’s politically divided world, both candidates were seen laughing and talking together outside Bethlehem Elementary School Tuesday night as they awaited election results.

“We always talk to each other,” Junkins said. “There’s no reason for us to bad mouth each other. There’s no reason for us to dislike each other.”

The feeling was mutual with Griffin.

“I’ve known Don for a while,” he said. “I have no ill feelings toward him. Why should I?”

Junkins will succeed current Mayor Tim Bishop, who chose not to seek re-election this year.

“I’m a little numb,” Junkins said after hearing the election results. “I’m overwhelmed, and I’m sorry more people weren’t out to vote.

“I’m going to have my work cut out for me.”

Junkins said his first move after taking office next month will be to take inventory on just what needs to be done in Bethlehem. Weeds need cut, and many roads need asphalting and paving, he said.

Results for the election in Bethlehem were read aloud outside the school by Recorder Stephen Gulajski, who lost his bid for re-election to challenger Matthew Saseen. Saseen captured 271 votes, while Gulajski received 208.

Gulajski congratulated Saseen, who told Gulajski he would probably be contacting him with any questions.

“I’m excited to get involved,” Saseen said. “I want to thank the voters who came out and voted.

“I look forward to giving back to the community.”

A contested race for the 2nd Ward council seat saw a close rematch between Councilwoman Judith Kirker and former Councilman Kent Pascioli, whom she defeated in 2017. On Tuesday, Kirker defeated Pascioli by just three votes with a vote total of 229 to 226.

The results of Tuesday’s election won’t be official until a canvass of votes takes place next week.

“It was a close race for me,” Kirker said. “I thank everybody who came out and voted.

“Congratulations to all who won. I look forward to working with everybody.”

Other races on Bethlehem’s ballot on Tuesday went unchallenged.

Only one candidate, Guy Rayl, filed to run for the 3rd Ward seat currently occupied by Griffin.

Incumbents running unopposed were in the 1st Ward, Robert Henry; 4th Ward, Stephen Harasuik; 5th Ward, Mark Saseen; 6th Ward, Thomas Auten; and 7th Ward, Stanley Wojcik.

While Bethlehem’s elected officials typically serve a two-year term, those winning Tuesday’s election will have an abbreviated term of just one year. This is because starting in 2020, the village changes its election schedule to coincide with county, state and federal elections on even number years.

The move will bring the cost of each election in Bethlehem down from about $7,500 to about $1,200, according to information provided by Bishop.


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