Don Cunningham served as Mayor of
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth's seventh-largest
city, from 1998 to February 2003. In a city hit hard by the
decline of Bethlehem Steel Corp. and the loss of 20,000
steel manufacturing jobs and a substantial portion of its
tax base, Cunningham guided more than $1 billion of new
development and the creation of 2,500 new jobs into the city
during his tenure as mayor. He received national recognition
for his work in economic development and urban
revitalization for leading an economic renaissance that
transformed Bethlehem into a New Economy city.
In addition to his work in economic development, Don proposed five city budgets with only one small tax increase (5½ %) and developed new and innovative programs to improve public safety and the delivery of neighborhood services. He was recognized for his innovations in the delivery of local government services by both the U.S. Conference of Mayors (1999) and former Governor Tom Ridge (2001). The Democratic Leadership Council named Cunningham one of the top ten state and local "rising stars" in the Democratic Party in 2000.
His service-driven approach to government, emphasizing fiscal austerity and aggressive economic development, led to his election by his peers in 2002 as the president of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. Cunningham was the youngest mayor elected in the history of Bethlehem (1997) and the first mayor reelected (2001) with no opposition in the primary and general elections. He is also the only Bethlehem mayor to come from the Lehigh County portion of the city.
While in office, Cunningham spearheaded the redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel manufacturing lands, one of the largest urban brownfield renewal projects in the United States.
Before his term as mayor, Cunningham served for two years as a member of Bethlehem City Council. He also worked in the private sector where he served as Senior Information Specialist at Pennsylvania Power and Light Co. in Allentown and Media Relations Director at Moravian College in Bethlehem. Cunningham started his career as a newspaper reporter working for the former Bethlehem Globe Times and as a suburban correspondent with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Don is a native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was educated fully in the Bethlehem Area School District, graduating from Freedom High School in 1983. He then graduated from Shippensburg University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and earned a Master of Arts in Political Science from Villanova University.
Don resides in the Lehigh County section of Bethlehem with his family, where five generations of the Cunningham Family have lived in the same neighborhood.