Two African-American brothers, who’d never run for office before, ousting a veteran incumbent mayor and councilwoman? Many said it was impossible.
But thankfully for the Walker brothers, many more believed. And last month, Donald Walker and his younger brother Dwan—by 10 minutes, were sworn in as councilman and mayor of Aliquippa.
|DYNAMIC DUO—New Aliquippa Councilman Donald Walker, left, and Mayor Dwan Walker pose together after being sworn in Jan. 3 as the first twins to win office in the same election.
“And our friend Mark Delon won, too,” said Donald Walker. “No one had ever swept the incumbents in Aliquippa before. In fact, the Democratic Party chairman said he wouldn’t support us because ‘nobody beats the machine.’ I guess he’s supposed to be our friend now.”
Walker, who is employed by the Beaver County branch of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, works as a therapist for youth in the Aliquippa School District. He is also a substitute teacher and coaches’ baseball, wrestling and football. He had originally planned to run for the school board, but found he could not because employees cannot serve on the board. He hadn’t thought about city government until his sister was killed in a murder-suicide. Delon, who lost a son to murder five years ago, convinced him to join in helping change the city.
“She had urged my brother to run, she was his biggest supporter. So it became his dream, his passion, and I had to be part of it,” he said. “We graduated high school together, Robert Morris University together, both with communications degrees, and now we’ve been sworn in together and we’re moving forward.”
His brother ousted three-term mayor Anthony Battalini and Donald Walker beat three-term incumbent Councilwoman Lisa Walker, his sister.
“Well, all council seats are at-large, but technically yeah, it was her seat,” said Walker. “We’re family and all, but she’s not giving me any pointers. She’s letting me figure it out by myself.”
One thing he doesn’t have to figure out is the direction he would like to take the city.
“We desperately need jobs infrastructure to rebuild the tax base. We spent 30 years under act 47; that’s unheard of. That’s bad,” he said. “We missed out on a lot of things because our officials didn’t do their jobs.”
But with new state-of-the-art elementary and combined junior-senior high school buildings, and a commitment to making sure the city’s young people, 35 percent of whom are Black, have something constructive to do, Walker and his brother want to let people know that Aliquippa is open for business.
“We have acres ready to develop at the old (Jones & Laughlin Steel) mill site, and we want to rebuild the business district, which has been prone to recent flooding. And hey, it’s not Allegheny County—you don’t have to worry about a new tax assessment here,” he said. “I’m honored to serve with my brother, and I’m grateful Mark stepped up too. We can do more. I learned that coaching—you can always do more.”
(Send comments to email@example.com.)