By Katherine Coble || News Editor
For many young people, local government is an abstract concept. While American Millennials may rabidly follow the news on the Hill and in the White House, the news happening in their local communities can perhaps feel more distant: physically close, but not necessarily as relevant or dramatic due to the focus of modern news media. 32-year-old Kevin Ressler feels differently.
As the executive director of Lancaster’s Meals on Wheels program, Ressler is consistently in close contact with the Lancaster city government. Now Ressler is aiming for political office himself. Ressler, a Democrat, has entered the Lancaster mayoral race and hopes to represent his party in the general election later this year.
Ressler cites Lancaster’s high levels of poverty and racial disparities in economic achievement as the major reason he decided to campaign. The urban development of Lancaster’s downtown area has disproportionately benefitted certain members of the community but not all—nearly 30% of Lancaster residents are below the poverty line despite the millions of dollars funnelled into the downtown area in recent years. Ressler explained, “When I realized none of the political candidates or people talking about running for office were talking about [poverty and unemployment] it became a moral obligation for me to at least step into the ring.”
“What’s been important for me and for this run has been making sure that issues of justice, equitability, and disenfranchisement are given a voice,” Ressler says. He is the second black man to run for mayor in Lancaster and if elected, would be the first black man to ever serve as mayor in Lancaster in addition to the being the youngest ever.
“I would argue that I’m the most broad-based experienced candidate,” Ressler says. He is running in the Democratic primary against Norman Bristol Colon, a consultant and Latino activist that could become Lancaster’s first Latino mayor, and Danene Sorace, another consultant that has served as the finance chair of the city council.
Ressler said, half-joking, that the hardest part of running his campaign has been getting his laundry done. He is still working full-time as the head of Meals on Wheels in Lancaster in addition to fighting for the city’s mayoral bid. He also has a two-year-old daughter and he and his wife are currently expecting another child. Balancing family, work, and a political race is no easy feat, but Ressler says his team of dedicated volunteers has helped. His campaign manager and communications director are both volunteering because “they believe in what they’re doing.” Ressler says that dedication is humbling.
He also says that being able to connect with members of his neighborhood, even ones he doesn’t know personally, has made the campaign worth it. “You get to meet a higher percentage of the community—you get to hear their hopes, their aspirations, their fears, and their challenges. And that’s an honor.” Ressler and his family live in a “distressed neighborhood” by choice, and he enjoys representing the issues of his overlooked community on the campaign trail.
Ressler hopes that F&M students pay attention and vote in the race because they are members of the Lancaster community and the government should serve them, too. The last day to register to vote is April 17, and only Democrats may vote in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primaries. The mayoral primary is May 16, which means F&M students must request an absentee ballot. The general election will be November 7.
First-year Katherine Coble is the News Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.