There are many reasons why Kevyn Knox said he’s decided to officially run for the mayor of Harrisburg, including what he sees as the absence of passion for positive change from the current administration.
Knox announced his candidacy on Facebook Wednesday afternoon. He joins a growing field of Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for mayor, the seat now held by Eric Papenfuse.
“I don’t think the current administration is doing anything for anyone except for the richest people in the city,” Knox said in a phone interview. “He works for Midtown and Downtown, but not all the neighborhoods. We are a city of a lot of neighborhoods. All of them need to be catered to. He needs to be the mayor to every resident, not just the ones he can profit off of.”
Knox is the latest to say he wants in, joining Otto V. Banks, a former public servant, Lewis Butts Jr., a former state employee and community activist, and David Schankweiler, founder and former CEO and owner of the Journal Multimedia, locally known for its Central Penn Business Journal. Mayor Eric Papenfuse previously indicated in a text that he intends to seek re-election but he has not yet formally announced.
This is Knox’s first attempt at running for an elected office in the city. The 53-year-old is general manager at HMAC. He said he started working there as a bartender in 2016 and two years later assumed his current role. Prior to that, he ran Midtown Cinema.
“You don’t need a background in politics to understand the problems going on in the city where you grew up and spent most of your life,” Knox said. “We’ve had people with backgrounds in politics be in city government council or school board and they haven’t done a good job. You need to be part of the city and know the problems in it to fix them and to make it an even better city than it already is.”
Addressing the city’s urgent needs will improve the quality of life for all, Knox said. One of the issues is the need to restructure the Harrisburg Police Department, he said.
“We need to add more counselors, psychologists, more programs to help with drug rehabilitation,” Knox said. “We need more than just a militarized police force, instead of escalating the problem.”
The Midtown resident, who was born at Harrisburg Hospital and raised in Mechanicsburg, said he wants to do what he can to help business owners survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do need to be as safe as possible,” he said. “Everybody needs to wear masks in public. The idea of businesses being closed and shutdown, that’s a safety concern to stem the pandemic that’s determined by state and federal governments. But we need to make sure we are ready to step in to help. Hopefully, now that the vaccine is finally starting to get out there, it will help more people.”
Fair and affordable housing has all been lost on the current mayor, Knox continued.
“The codes for landlords are not being enforced right now,” he said. “No one is enforcing them, which hurts the tenants. And that needs to be fixed as well. Because that will help in fair and affordable housing.”
After graduating high school, Knox said he moved back to Harrisburg because he always thought it was a “great place.”
“I grew up in the suburbs, but when I came to the city, it seemed like there was a strong sense of community,” he said. “The city needs someone leading us who has a passion for this community, not just someone who just decided to buy a house and move here last year and run for mayor. We need someone who is actually in love with this city.”
Knox was referring to Schankweiler, who recently moved to Harrisburg.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Knox said. “We can work together to fix our problems. I will do everything in my power to help everyone in this city, not just a portion of it. I want to help make the schools better, help create better housing. Help the homeless. I’d do that by working with the city council and school board members making sure every resident, in every neighborhood, is getting the services that they need.”
The Democratic primary is often decisive in Harrisburg, because of the party’s overwhelming voter registration edge in the city, where the current population is estimated at 49,271.
This spring’s primary is scheduled for May 18.
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