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Youth Is Served in Bethlehem: Aaron Snider, 20, Takes Over as Village Mayor

photo by: Joselyn King

New Bethlehem Mayor Aaron Snider smiles Friday as he sits down to his first day in office.

BETHLEHEM – The man believed to be the youngest mayor ever in West Virginia took over the municipal leadership of Bethlehem Friday.

Aaron Snider – age 20 – won’t turn 21 until Aug. 7, and he is already thinking about the future. But he acknowledges the past is what got him to thinking of a political career and a life in public service.

“Even though it was an unopposed election and viewed as an easy win, I don’t take this job lightly,” he said. “I know it won’t always be an easy job.

“I’m not doing it for the money or acknowledgment. I want to represent residents a little better, make the community more well known, and get more traffic through Bethlehem.”

He was elected to a two-year term as mayor.

Snider is the third generation in his family to serve as mayor of Bethlehem. Great-grandfather John Daniel served 14 years in office from 1975 to 1989, while grandfather Garrett “Rhett” Daniel was mayor from 2005 to 2015.

“I don’t remember saying I wanted to do it, … but remember being intrigued at what they did as mayor,” Snider said.

He never met his great-grandfather, but Snider said he has heard many stories of things he did for Bethlehem.

He explained he started to become interested in politics while in middle school, and that running for mayor had “been an idea for a while.”

Snider was first elected to Bethlehem Village Council just two years ago.

“As soon as I was 18, I registered to vote – and I filed for a council seat,” Snider said. “I was eager to get started.

“It was a thought (running for mayor), and we would joke about it. But I didn’t see it happening until last year.”

That was when the most recent mayor, Don Junkins, indicated he would not be seeking re-election this year.

Snider was the only candidate to file in the 2022 mayor’s race in Bethlehem.

He realizes being mayor is “definitely not a full-time job.” He has daily employment as a salesperson for Neighborhood Roofing, and is also in the process of working on an associate’s degree in business administration at West Virginia Northern Community College.

Some business expertise will come in handy for Snider as he seeks to guide Bethlehem in the spending of $1 million in American Rescue Plan dollars.

“We haven’t spent any ARP money, but we wiill very seriously start looking,” he said.

To start with, he said there is a water tower on Maple Lane in the Sugar Lane area that has been sitting empty and needs to be made usable.

“We also need to look at redoing the waterline on Ridgecrest Road,” Snider added. “Due to heavy traffic from the sand trucks, we are seeing many breaks along Ridgecrest Road road. All the pressure leads to waterline breaks.”

He added residents also should expect to see much happening with Bethlehem’s parks starting next year, starting with renovations and some mulch.

“We’re going to upkeep the parks,” Snider continued. “That has been lacking.”

Meanwhile, negotiations are taking place between the village and the new owner of the Bopp Playground – which in the past was leased to Bethlehem for use as a park. Attorney Shane Mallett has bought the playground property.

“We want to continue to lease so we can continue to have a park there,” Snider said. “We wiill negotiate a deal.”

He added he would like to see more community events happening in Bethlehem, such as the community arts sale that took place at the end of April.

“There was a great turnout,” Snider said. “The more people we can get into parks, the better. I love to see people coming through town.”

Snider said he knows his age has come into question.

“I won’t claim to know everything … but I have very trusted people here to advise me,” he said. “I have great relationships with people in the office.

“Figuring it out on my own is not a concern. I believe in calling on advisors … not just me running the show.”

He noted his goal is “to keep climbing the political ladder.”

“For now, I am committed to Bethlehem,” Snider said. “I am hoping to see some higher opportunities arise in the future.”

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