Trail Blazer Samantha Kaag is Mayor & Firefighter
PM: What do you do for a living, what is your title?
SK: I am not a huge ‘title’ person, I genuinely think that some of the best work is done behind the scenes by people with no real title or an unknown one. If you come to committee meetings, you learn quickly that the most productive people have great friends behind them and/or an amazing team. Thankfully, I have both while holding the ‘titles’ of West Reading Mayor & West Reading Firefighter. My main job was marketing consulting, but I have more recently pulled away from that to dedicate more time to the mayor role while we were going through a tragic time. Finding a balance is imperative but I am grateful to have the time and ability to focus on my elected role and the community.
PM: First female mayor of West Reading how does that make you feel?
SK: Being the first female mayor in West Reading is a historic achievement that I am grateful to have accomplished! It represents progress and inclusivity anywhere it happens; it gives an opportunity to inspire other women to break barriers. Being the first female mayor is groundbreaking to me, but I also truly believe that great leadership overall is a must in communities. As a mayor, you can bring a fresh perspective, empathy, and new ideas to the table addressing the specific needs of women and underrepresented groups, while also representing all residents equally. West Reading has great leadership among our employees, elected officials, and volunteers now more than ever. I am honored and proud as your mayor to be able to work with everyone while representing the community and hopefully inspiring future generations to get involved!
PM: Are you originally from Berks?
SK: I moved a lot as a kid but spent most of my time in a small quaint town in upstate NY called Candor; when I think of ‘home,’ that’s the place. I moved to Berks County in 2009 and gravitated towards West Reading almost immediately, with the walkability and tight-knit feel it was ‘homey’. I have been in West Reading for about 12 years now. I love Berks County and the ability to get everywhere easily. We are close to all the larger cities and have some hidden gems in the county itself. It also helps that West Reading over time has become even more walkable and convenient since Kimberton Whole Foods and other awesome shops have come in!
PM: Hobbies or Volunteer work?
SK: As for hobbies and volunteering, the list is long! Volunteering is something that I categorize as a hobby, and it was something that got me into being more involved in the borough. I genuinely love being involved and helping people so of course Firefighting was the first one I took on when moving to the area. I currently am a member of the West Reading Fire Company but unfortunately, my current schedule has not allotted me the time to dedicate as much as I once did; but I still appreciate getting involved whenever and however I can, even with fundraising! IM FIT also holds a special place in my heart, working with the children and parents is incredibly inspiring and I have a soft spot for the organization. I have volunteered with many other organizations and genuinely just try to jump in wherever I can to give an extra set of hands.
PM: Why Mayor?
SK: I do what I do because I genuinely enjoy helping people, making personal connections, keeping busy, and learning. With the Mayor role specifically, it is a great spot to help, meet, and learn the social fabric that holds our community together. Being in a position that allows me to be transparent with people, help address and/or ease concerns, and working hard for the place I call home while being able to be involved in the communities amazing events with a front-row seat to seeing what all the committees, businesses, and community advocates are doing to keep West Reading beautiful and fun is heartwarming & something I knew I wanted to be a bigger part of.
PM: Do you see more growth for West Reading?
SK: West Reading is always growing, adding new businesses, watching fresh entrepreneurs start their dreams, and young adults/couples find their ‘forever’ homes. I truly believe that West Reading will continue to grow economically, socially, and environmentally. We are always looking at implementing more environmentally friendly practices, supporting local businesses and residents, and promoting events, while also being hands-on with what goes on behind the scenes to keep our foundation strong! A sense of community is not something that we lack, and overall, the vision is a vibrant and sustainable community that provides a higher quality of life for all that live, work, and play here.
PM: Give us a personal message you have for the community:
SK: A personal message for any community would be to remind everyone that each of you holds incredible strength and potential within your community that you can use to help the growth and positivity or to hinder growth with negativity, always choose growth! Each one of you has the power to shape and grow your community’s future through acts of kindness, volunteering, embracing inclusivity, and spreading positivity – be positive, spread kindness! To my community, it is simply that I am honored and proud to be your mayor, and I stand so strongly and proudly beside you. West Reading has faced challenges, celebrated accomplishments, and proven our unity and ability to come together. I want to continue to nurture the positivity and unity to continue to build on our beautiful borough.
Thanks to Samantha for this interview where we realized how much she does for the community, especially West Reading. I will tell you something that we learned during the photo session and that is that in West Reading the position of Mayor only pays two thousand dollars a year. Yes, you read it correctly! Sometimes we don’t know the sacrifice that others make for us to live as we live.
We also had the pleasure of meeting her charming and supportive boyfriend of one year, Ty Gardner, a total pleasure.
We would like to thank the West Reading Fire Department, Station 64 for allowing us to do the photo shoot at their station and for all they do.