picture by: Joselyn King
BETHLEHEM — The man considered West Virginia’s youngest mayor took over as mayor of Bethlehem on Friday.
Aaron Snider – 20 – won’t turn 21 until August 7, and he’s already thinking about the future. But he acknowledges that the past is what led him to think about a political career and a life in public service.
“Even though it was an uncontested election and considered an easy win, I don’t take this job lightly,” he said. “I know it won’t always be an easy task.
“I don’t do it for the money or the recognition. I want to represent the locals a little better, raise awareness of the community and increase traffic through Bethlehem.
He was elected to a two-year term as mayor.
Snider is the third generation of 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 served as mayor from 2005 to 2015.
“I don’t remember saying I wanted to do it, … but remember being intrigued by what they did as mayor,” Snider said.
He never met his great-grandfather, but Snider said he heard many stories about the things he did for Bethlehem.
He explained that he first became interested in politics while in college and that running for mayor had been “an idea for a while”.
Snider was first elected to the Bethlehem village council just two years ago.
“As soon as I was 18, I registered to vote — and applied for a council seat,” Snider said. “I was eager to start.
“It was an idea (to run for mayor) and we were joking about it. But I didn’t see it happen until last year.
It was then that the most recent mayor, Don Junkins, indicated that he would not run again this year.
Snider was the only candidate to stand in the 2022 mayoral race in Bethlehem.
He realizes that being mayor is “definitely not a full-time job”. He has a day job as a salesman for Neighborhood Roofing and is also 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 spending the million dollar US bailout.
“We haven’t spent any ARP money, but we will start looking very seriously,” he said.
For starters, he said there is a water tower on Maple Lane in the Sugar Lane area that has stood empty and needs to be made usable.
“We also need to consider redoing the water line on Ridgecrest Road,” Snider added. “Due to heavy sand truck traffic, we are seeing many breaks along Ridgecrest Road. All the pressure leads to water pipe breaks.
He added that residents should also expect to see a lot happening in Bethlehem’s parks from next year, starting with renovations and mulching.
“We’re going to maintain the parks,” Snider continued. “It missed.”
Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing between the village and the new owner of Bopp Playground – which in the past was leased to Bethlehem for use as a park. Lawyer Shane Mallett purchased the property from the playground.
“We want to keep renting so we can keep having a park there,” Snider said. “We will negotiate an agreement.”
He added that he would like to see more community events taking place in Bethlehem, such as the community art sale that took place at the end of April.
“There was great turnout,” Snider said. “The more people we can get into the parks, the better. I like to see people crossing the city.
Snider said he knew his age was in question.
“I won’t claim to know everything… but I have trusted people here to advise me,” he said. “I have excellent relationships with the people in the office.
“Finding it out for myself is not a problem. I believe in bringing in advisors… not just me running the show.
He noted that his goal was to “continue to climb the political ladder”.
“Right now, I’m committed to Bethlehem,” Snider said. “I hope to see higher opportunities arise in the future.”