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Head of South Whitehall commissioners running for re-election

Diane Kelly
Diane Kelly
Diane Kelly, president of the South Whitehall commissioners, is the board's longest-serving member.

S. WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — President Diane Kelly is running for re-election in November to the township commissioners.

“I want to continue to build on the progress that we have made over the last four years,” said Kelly, a Republican. “I feel like we have established a very good foundation, and I'm excited and looking forward to even greater growth moving forward.”

  • Diane Kelly, the president of the South Whitehall commissioners, is running for re-election
  • Kelly was first elected in 2019. She is the longest-standing member of the board
  • Kelly says her legislative priorities include balancing growth and preservation, promoting transparent government, conducting strong budget reviews and supporting law enforcement

Kelly was elected to the board in 2019, amid the height of public discourse about the controversial mixed-use development Ridge Farms.

When Kelly was a member of the township planning commission, she was the only member who voted against recommending conditional approval of Ridge Farms in late 2019.

According to the meeting minutes, Kelly said she believed the applicant “failed to adequately address” the zoning ordinances of the township.

Kelly is the longest-standing member of the commissioners. The makeup of the commissioners' board completely changed after voting to grant the project conditional approval.

Kelly said her legislative priorities are advocating for balanced growth and preservation, promoting transparent government, conducting strong budget reviews and supporting law enforcement and first responders.

Kelly’s views on development

Kelly said she supports balanced growth that enhances the community while still preserving open space and farmland.

“Growth, farmland preservation, open space, development — those all need to work together,” Kelly said.

Kelly said many residents felt township officials were not listening to their concerns with Ridge Farms when she first ran for commissioner in 2019.

“A common concern that I heard from our residents when I spoke with them is that they didn't feel their voices were being heard,” Kelly said.

“It's a process. It's not a one-time vote that we can take."
Diane Kelly, president of the South Whitehall Board of Commissioners

Kelly thinks there has been progress since her first campaign. For example, during the creation of the township’s new comprehensive plan, the township held dozens of public meetings and put out an online survey to get resident feedback.

Kelly said she thinks commissioners are on the right track when it comes to development, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“It's a process. It's not a one-time vote that we can take,” Kelly said.

Other priorities

221102 SWT Commissioners.jpg
Olivia Marble
South Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners at a recent meeting.

Kelly said when she was first elected commissioner, she found out that the last audit of the township was submitted in 2011. (Audits are required every year by the state.)

Kelly said she is not sure why the audits were not completed.

“I realized there was an embezzlement prior to that time, which was part of the reason why the audits were not done,” Kelly said. “But it seemed like year after year, there just wasn't any progress there.”

The township's former utility manager pleaded guilty to theft.

Now, the audits are complete. Kelly said she wants to continue to advocate for strong budget reviews and audits, balancing the budget and avoiding tax increases.

Kelly said she is also proud of the work township officials have done to make the government more transparent, such as streamlining the township website and posting meeting recordings there.

“I will continue to advocate for opportunities for you to be included in your local government,” Kelly wrote in a press release.

The upcoming election

The primary election is May 16.

The three seats up for election are those held by Kelly, Jacob Roth and Brad Osborne.

Roth also is running for re-election and Osborne is not running, according to Lehigh County records.

Former commissioner and business owner Ben Long also will be on the Republican primary ballot, along with township Public Safety Commission member Chris Peischl.

Thomas Johns is the only Democrat running for a seat on the board, which is currently made up of only Republicans. Johns, a former commissioner, ran unsuccessfully in 2021.