Meet the Mayor of West Reading Borough

West Reading Borough in Berks County welcomed their new mayor, Valentin Rodriguez Jr., when he was sworn into office on January 6, 2014.  In the May primary of the election, Rodriguez Jr. needed enough write-in votes to secure him a spot on the official ballot.  With 122 combined votes, he was one step closer to making his efforts a true reality.  Having run as an Independent throughout the mayoral race, Rodriguez trumped two other opponents with 290 votes to award him the seat.

Upon the announcement of his election into the position, Rodriguez was quoted as proclaiming, “People were fed up with the parties,” which contributed to the notion that nonpartisan support was key in his election success.  Former West Reading Borough mayor Shane J. Keller chose not to seek re-election. The election of Rodriguez as mayor marks a first for West Reading, but not for the state of Pennsylvania. Rodriguez’s victory is the first time that a Latino has been elected as mayor in Berks County, but the second time a Latino has become mayor in Pennsylvania.  Jose Rosado is marked as the first Latino mayor in Pennsylvania serving Fountain Hill, in Lehigh County, beginning in 2010 as an appointed mayor, making it official in the 2011 special election.

Rodriguez, who was born and raised in West Reading, saw firsthand what it was like to serve the people through his father, Valentin Rodriguez Sr. His father was one of the most influential Latinos in the area. Settling in West Reading in 1952, Rodriguez Jr.’s father helped to found the Puerto Rican Latin Association in Reading in the 1960s. Rodriguez Sr. later went on to serve as the association’s treasurer. Mayor Rodriguez Jr. explained that the encouragement of residents and borough council members were what drove him to make the decision to run for mayor.

West Reading Borough is a vibrant neighborhood with much to offer both residents and visitors alike.  Along Penn Avenue, considered the borough’s main street, one can find locally owned boutiques, shops and restaurants.  The quaint and welcoming environment is also host to the main campus of the Reading Health System. The borough celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007, praising both its character as well as its rich diversity.  Roughly 18 percent of West Reading is Latino.

The road to Rodriguez Jr.’s mayoral seat was one that can be regarded as hard-earned.  He served as a PRLA board member, taking after his father who helped to establish the association, and he also took a stand for a polling station to be put into Reading’s Oakbrook neighborhood.  From then on, Rodriguez Jr. continued to ensure that his voice was heard, also advocating for bilingual ballots and serving as chairman of the Reading Police Diversity Board for eight years.  The passion and the drive was there, and Rodriguez Jr. was ready to take the next step forward in his life to become mayor.  Many of Rodriguez Jr.’s fellow council members and friends were confident enough in his drive and character to give him their support publicly.

Rodriguez Jr. explains that his win should be an example for the city of Reading as a whole.  He expressed that with a Latino majority in not only the borough over which he presides, but also in Reading as a whole, why not elect a Hispanic mayor.  In the most recent November elections in Reading, many Latinos were elected to positions of remarkable influence.  Rodriguez Jr. made clear that his intention serving as mayor was to not necessarily serve the party’s needs, but rather to assure he serves the needs of the people first and foremost.

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