Cassandra, tell us about yourself.
I am 28 and live in Exeter Borough. I was born in Kingston and resided for a short time in South Wilkes-Barre before moving to Exeter. My mother and stepfather, Barbara and Carlos Velazquez, live in Exeter and my father and stepmother, Dale and Renee Coleman, live in Hanover Twp.
You’ll never meet a friendlier and closer knit community than Exeter Borough. Everyone bends over backwards for their neighbors. I truly enjoyed growing up in a small community. Friends that I made in elementary school are some of my closest friends today.
I have three step siblings, Natasha, Jamie and Emily, and they are amazing. I am one of nine cousins on the Coyne (maternal) side and one of nine on the Coleman (paternal) side.
Growing up in a small town has its advantages. We were able to run around outside, hopping from house to house, never too concerned with traffic and busy streets. We all grew up in each other’s houses.
I graduated from Kings College in 2010 with a degree in political science, and I am the director of Gov. Tom Wolf’s northeast office.
What’s a typical day like at work?
The northeast office serves the 24 counties of Northeast and Central Pennsylvania. Every day is different from the next. I attend events and meetings on behalf of the governor. The governor’s NEPA office also handles a large amount of constituent service on a daily basis. The great thing about this job is every day is a new adventure and I look forward to each new challenge.
You have an interesting story about your foray into politics.
My grandfather, the late Mayor Joe Coyne, served in local government for just about 30 years. He served on Exeter Council for 17 years and as mayor for 11 years. The Borough of Exeter was near and dear to his heart. He so valued his time serving this community, and he instilled in me a great passion and devotion to public service.
From a very young age, my grandfather would take me to meetings and events with him. I actually worked my first polling place at 3 years old. When I was in high school, I served as junior council representative to Exeter Borough in my junior and senior years. From then, my involvement just flourished.
It was past practice in Exeter that if an elected official passed away, while in office, a spouse or family member could fulfill their term. My grandfather was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in September of 2007 and asked that if anything should happen to him while still in office, that I fulfill his term. Thanks to his faith in me, I was appointed mayor of Exeter in October of 2008.
What were your challenges on the job?
It was a great honor to step into my grandfather’s shoes, but it would be an understatement to say I learned on the job. During my 6½ years as mayor, we had an explosion in the middle of town, next to an elementary school, as well as the flood of 2011. It was trying at times, but through the most difficult days and the most trying decisions, I always tried to imagine how my grandfather would have handled the challenge I was facing.
Initially, as a young female, it was difficult to get a seat at the table and be taken seriously, but I believe I was able to prove myself and I eventually earned that seat.
One of the major responsibilities as a borough mayor is overseeing the borough police department. I will never forget my nerves walking into the first meeting with the department. How would they react? Would I be respected? Also, would they work with me to teach me what I needed to learn about law enforcement? Thanks to some truly commendable officers, those fears and nerves were quickly assuaged. They immediately accepted me and most importantly, respected me. I was very engaged as mayor with our police and I can’t thank our borough police and law enforcement as a whole, enough for always being willing to put their lives on the line to protect us.
Tell us about your illness.
In 2004, I had a cheerleading injury that ultimately caused four knee surgeries. In 2011, I reinjured my knee, warranting yet another two surgeries. Six weeks after the surgeries, I fell short of breath and was rushed to the hospital. At 24 years old, the doctors found blood clots so numerous that they “stopped counting at five.” The clots were blocking my pulmonary blood flow by 80 percent in one lung and 100 percent in the other one. I was transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where I spent more than six weeks in the hospital. After multiple close calls, they were able to get the clots to dissolve and I was released — but not without lingering effects. I suffered short-term memory loss and was in a wheelchair while I completed therapy. I was also told I may never be able to have children. Luckily, we were able to prove them wrong. I built my strength back up and after 18 months of anticoagulation therapy, I was told it was safe to have a child. I have been open about my story and work with the National Blood Clot Alliance to help bring awareness.
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Jim Corcoran III, and I met through friends in 2008. He was living in South New Jersey at the time and we had a long distance relationship for more than two years. He proposed in September 2010. At that time, I knew I wanted to build a life, career and family here in NEPA, so he eventually moved to Exeter. He now sees why this area is such a wonderful place. He works for Mohegan Sun at Pocono.
Jim and I were married on April 13, 2013, at St. Anthony’s in Exeter. Being told at 24, one year prior to getting married, that you may never be able to have children was quite emotional. I feel extremely lucky to have had a superb team, Doctors Theresa Baseski, David Greenwald, Andrew Stuka and Mark Bernardi who worked with me to get me to the point I needed to be at when Jim and I decided we wanted to grow our family. I was high risk the entire pregnancy and drove Dr. Baseski nuts, I’m sure. But honestly, I cannot thank her enough for everything she did for me. She is one of the main reasons we have our son today and I will forever be indebted to her for her professionalism and compassion. My 40-week pregnancy was pretty uneventful and my labor and delivery was quite quick and easy. I always joke that after all the medical issues I had, God let me slide with this one and made it a “piece of cake.”
James Daniel Corcoran IV was born Sept. 25, 2014. Jimmy is such an active little boy. I believe he is a perfect mix of my husband and me. He, without a doubt, has my personality. He loves people and always wants to interact. He also has my husband’s demeanor. He is laid back and just goes with the flow. I take him along to political events, just like my grandfather did with me.
Jimmy has a photo in his room of the governor holding him when he was only 5 weeks old. He has a “Tom Wolf for Governor” onesie on. He really knows how to pick the winners. Jim and Jimmy have an amazing relationship and what I do for work and the community is only possible because of the time and energy Jim and my parents put in to helping with Jimmy.
You are a two career family? How do you manage child care?
Jimmy attends the Work of Art Learning Center in Exeter, four days a week. He enjoys nursery school so much. It helps us get through the day knowing what wonderful teachers are there. Jim helps with pickup and dropoff when I’m traveling. My parents are amazing. I truly never realized how much admiration I have for them until I became a parent. Both my parents, as well as my stepparents, have active roles in raising Jimmy, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that they want to be such an important part of his daily life. I grew up very close to my grandparents and I cherish that relationship and feel extremely lucky that Jimmy will have the same relationship with his Poppy and Nani and Grandma and Abuelo.