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Reading’s first Latino mayor seeks second term, because ‘there’s still work to be done’

  • Gabriela Martínez/WITF
Reading Mayor Eddie Moran gives remarks at an Oct. 24 campaign fundraising event before the 2023 municipal election.

 Gabriela Martinez / WITF

Reading Mayor Eddie Moran gives remarks at an Oct. 24 campaign fundraising event before the 2023 municipal election.

The residents of Reading will select a mayor on November 7th. 

The candidates on the ballot are incumbent Democrat Eddie Morán and Republican Joseph “José” Nuñez, a Berks County recorder and licensed realtor who ran unopposed in the primary. 

There are also at least three candidates running as write-ins: Wally Scott, former Mayor of Reading who was defeated by Morán in 2018 primary elections; Robert Melendez, who ran in 2020 to represent Pennsylvania’s State House District 127 and lost Manny Guzman in the Democratic primary election; and Celines Ekvall, who lost to Morán in May’s primary.

In recent decades, Reading has transformed from a primarily white, working-class city to one where more than half the population is Latino, primarily Dominican and Puerto Rican. In 2019, the city elected Morán as its first Latino mayor.

In the meantime, there are Reading voters who would like to see more change from a city that in 2011 was featured as the poorest city in the United States in a New York Times article. During Morán’s administration, Reading was able to climb out of Act 47, which is a state recovery plan for financially distressed cities. The city had been working to leave that program for more than a decade before Morán was elected.

Some residents, such as Alex Melendez, want to see more recreational spaces and outlets for youth.

“That’s why young people keep killing each other. There’s nothing to do here,” Melendez said. “Sometimes my daughter complains ‘Dad, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do. We’ve even planned to leave.”

Daniel Encarnación, who has lived in Reading for four years and works as a school bus driver, said he has seen Reading improve in many aspects. He noted improvement in the conditions in the streets, particularly better pedestrian infrastructure.

But he feels the city could do more to keep housing affordable and safe for residents who rent. As a tenant, he said, he has noticed housing getting more expensive and, at the same time, a lot of vacant, blighted buildings. Encarnación also wants to see more landlord oversight. 

“You try to denounce a landlord who refuses to fix things because you get ignored. They’ll tell you to move if you don’t like it,” Encarnación said. “And if you go to city hall to file a complaint, they’ll try to get you evicted.”

Here is where the candidates on the ballot stand on some key issues.

Eddie Morán – Incumbent mayor of Reading

Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Democratic mayoral candidate Eddie Moran gives a speech to supporters gathered Nov. 2, 2019, at Jet Set Restaurant for a campaign event as he is looking to become the first latino mayor of Reading, which has a majority latino population. Moran is also seeking to become the first latino mayor of a major municipality in Pennsylvania’s history. (Matt Smith for Keystone Crossroads)

Age: 57

Party: Democrat

Eddie Morán was born in Hatillo, Puerto Rico and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Before being elected as the mayor of Reading in 2019, Morán served as school board member at the Reading School District.

His first two years as mayor were spent managing the city’s COVID-19 response and addressing the economic fallout of the pandemic, which shut down businesses and left thousands unemployed. Morán touts his role securing aid for struggling residents during the pandemic, including a fund he started to help small business owners.

During his administration, Reading exited Act 47, a program for financially distressed cities. Since 2009, the city had been forced to limit economic development projects and resorted to unpopular financial choices, such as freezing salaries and wage increases and increasing public employees’ contributions to health insurance premiums.

In his latest budget address, Moran said “the city is in a strong financial position, with nearly $40 million in unassigned fund balance services,” which is more than the $22 million or the 20% of  the general fund held in reserve previously required under Act 47 policy.

“The city has not incurred any additional debt, nor do we anticipate the need for borrowing in the near future,” Morán said.

Among his accomplishments, Morán also notes $10 million for a two-year street improvement plan and a $3.3 million grant he helped secure for a lead-based paint removal program.

In 2021, Morán faced scrutiny when former City Solicitor Elizabeth Kraft filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment and workplace retaliation. The city settled the lawsuit in March by paying Kraft $89,166 and  $34,834 to her attorney, and Kraft agreed to withdraw her claims, which the city and the mayor denied. The settlement money came out of the city’s insurance carrier. 

Earlier this year, the former city human resources director, Aida Acevedo, filed another lawsuit against the city, Eddie Morán and a former administration aide, Natanael Rivera.  The lawsuit alleges that Rivera sexually harassed Acevedo. It also accuses Morán of retaliation and alleges that Morán fired Acevedo after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Though the case is ongoing, a settlement conference has been set for January 2024, according to court filings.

 Statement on why he is running

“I took the job knowing that there were a lot of challenges, that there was a lot to do, and I tackled every single one of the needs to the best of my abilities […] we have planted a lot of seeds, we have come a long way […] We have a fund balance of $42 million, the healthiest we’ve ever been in years. It’s not only about me being a Latino candidate, and having the history of being elected as a first mayor, but a mayor that has been committed, a mayor that has been knowing what it takes to move our city forward. So why I need to get elected, again, is because there’s still work to be done”


Morán said in an interview with WITF that he supports an “open-door” approach toward immigrants moving to Reading and that he sees the city as a place that embraces diversity.

Reading’s population is more than 60% Latino.

“We don’t want to be selective on who we can and will not assist,” Morán said. 

To ensure low-income immigrants in Reading have enough resources, Morán has prioritized collaboration with nonprofits serving Latino immigrants, such as Centro Hispano and Berks Latino Workforce Development.

With the support of city council, Morán assigned $500,000 from the city’s appropriation of federal American Rescue Plan funds to Centro Hispano. Berks Latino Workforce Development is the product of a collaboration between the Reading Community Development Department and other nonprofits.

Crime and youth violence 

Morán has often said that “it takes a village” to address youth violence in the city, meaning that addressing youth violence will require effort from the entire community of Reading. The mayor has also supported giving more resources to nonprofits that run youth support programs.

The city of Reading awarded more than $2 million dollars in ARPA funds to nonprofits that work on violence prevention, many of which include organizations that run after-school programs for young people. Previous WITF reporting looked into how organizations were using that money.

“I’ve also just created a database that is about to hit live in the next several months, where it’s going to engage the not-for-profit organizations, especially those addressing youth needs and violence so that we can know the resources that are available for our youth,” Morán said.

Morán’s administration also piloted a city internship program for people between the ages 15 and 18, with the goal of providing employment to high school students and reducing violence.

Javier Ruiz, Reading Police interim chief, said in August that the city’s police department is facing staffing and recruitment challenges. Morán is still interviewing candidates for a new permanent police chief after Richard Tornielli retired in the summer.

Parks and recreational spaces

“Something I take pride in and I talk about often is that I was able to create the first ever all abilities park in the city of Reading for children of all abilities,” Morán said, referring to the handicapped accessible playground that opened in June.

Morán boasts having spent $10 million in park renovations. During his administration, the city has completed over 25 restoration and rehabilitation projects for parks, playground and monuments, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Still, the future of one of Reading’s biggest green spaces remains undecided. In 2021, the city paid Stantec Consulting Services $272,725 to develop a revitalization plan for Reading’s downtown. That plan recommended turning the city Riverfront into a “major riverfront destination” and connecting the city’s downtown to the riverfront via a trail system.

So far, the city has not initiated a project that would implement those recommendations. Instead, the city has banned parking along Riverside Drive, which makes it harder for residents to reach the park by foot. These restrictions were put in place as a response to noise and littering complaints from West Reading. 

“We don’t want people to feel that they cannot benefit and utilize what beauty we have in our city, we want to encourage them. But we also have to educate, we have to educate that we have to do it in a responsible manner,” Morán said

Joseph “José” Nuñez – Recorder for Berks County and licensed Realtor

Photos courtesy of Joseph "Jose" Nuñez

Joseph “Jose” Nuñez poses in front of the campaign signs of other Republican candidates in the Nov.7 municipal election.


Age: 38

Party: Republican

Joseph Nuñez was born to Dominican parents in New York City. He currently works as a recorder for Berks County. He is also a licensed realtor at Pagoda Realty and Property Management. 

He has a certificate in automotive engineering technology from Charleston Job Corps. 

Nuñez is largely running on stimulating the business sector and  easing parking restrictions in the city. 

Statement on why he is running

“A lot of the main concerns that we have in the current city is that we have a lot of red tape, when it comes to the administration, and how businesses and business is being conducted within the city. We also don’t have a city hall that’s respectful to the Latino community at the moment, which we thought was going to change when Eddie Moran came into office. That didn’t necessarily happen.”

Stimulating business, problems with red tape

Nuñez said he wants to eliminate red tape and regulations for people who want to start businesses. Getting rid of regulations and “streamlining” the permitting process would stimulate business, he said.

One example:  He said we would eliminate occupancy permits.

“I’ve heard stories about business owners that have had their businesses ready for a year, and all they were waiting on was an occupancy permit, Nuñez said. “I don’t think it’s fair that one business should wait one whole year when they’re done with their project to start their business.”


Nuñez said he is sympathetic to the plight of undocumented immigrants, because of his spouses’ experiences.

“On our honeymoon, they denied her entry and canceled her visa and deported her back to her country. So I ended up having to experience the full systematic turmoil of what immigration is under the Obama administration,” Nuñez said. Nuñez said he lived in Guatemala for some time to be with his wife –another experience he said gave him insight into the immigrant experience.

At the same time, Nuñez has said he believes the city at the moment does not have enough resources to serve a large influx of immigrants.

“First we need to get our house in order. We first need To get city hall in order, we first need to make sure that our foundation within our government walls and the way that we work are in order. There has to be respect, first and foremost, to all constituents and residents in our city. “

He said that he would not support Reading being a sanctuary city, which is a type of city that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, because “that comes with a lot of liability.”

Crime and youth violence 

Violent crimes between young people in Reading is a coming concern among Reading residents, especially for families whose children attend Reading School District.

When it comes to the issue of youth violence, “it hits close to home,” Nuñez said. “I was a young adolescent in Reading. I caused a little ruckus in Reading. I’ve been racially profiled in Reading. Without proper education and proper outlets that teens and youth can release aggression or energy, you’re going to have this problem.”

Much like Morán, Nuñez believes that career readiness and leadership programs for youth could help alleviate youth violence in the city. He recalled how one after-school program – Fresh Youth Initiatives –  made a great impact in his life when he was 14. They taught him how to manage money and how to engage in conversation as a professional. He remembers when the program took him to New York City and he was able to look out of the 106th floor of the World Trade Center.

“Me standing on top of the world at 14-years-old changed my life and the course of the direction of where my statistic should have been,” Nuñez said. I should have been a statistic. I should have been a drug dealer. I should have been stealing cars.”

Nuñez also proposes an initiative he says could help address the city’s police officer shortage and the need for more youth development programs: a police recruitment program geared toward young people. 

“I would like to work with local officials and local judges to give them the option to join the cadet force as the only option so that they can get out of trouble, and then become law abiding citizens as well as teach their local officials. And we can pull local officers from within the community instead of just always having to hire from the outside.”

Parks and recreational spaces

“Public recreation is super important for me, again, that ties back down to where our youth need outlets, they don’t have outlets, it’s very important that they have the proper ones,” Nuñez said.

Part of Nuñez’s vision for developing parks and recreational activities in Reading is a dog park at the Riverfront Park, bike rental at the Reading Pagoda and creating a “trail hub.”

Nuñez said he would also like to bring a Dominican parade to the city and a three-day car show where people compete on who has the best car sound system.


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