HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Jan Rader made history on April 12, 2017, when she was sworn in as West Virginia’s first female fire chief.
She has served with the Huntington Fire Department for more than twenty-two years and credits her parent’s dedication to their community for her love of public service.
“There is something special there that she brings,” said Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington. “She brings out the best in all of us.”
And, that’s just one of the many reasons Huntington’s mayor Steve Williams nominated her for Nexstar Media’s Remarkable Women Contest.
“I just try to do the right thing ethically and morally and unfortunately we have been embroiled in the opioid epidemic,” exclaimed Jan Rader, Huntington Fire Chief. “I think my medical background, being a nurse and paramedic, has really helped in that regard to spread education and understanding of what we’re actually dealing with.”
“When we created the office of drug control policy she was the first person I called,” said Williams.
But not long after that, Hollywood came calling too.
And, her fight against the opioid crisis (along with two others) was highlighted in the Netflix documentary “Heroine”, which was nominated for an Oscar.
“We just didn’t dream it would be as popular as it has become,” said Rader.
Rader and her two costars were even invited to the Academy Awards. While she expected glitz and glam, she didn’t expect that the documentary caught the eye of some of Hollywood’s A-listers, like Meryl Streep.
“She’s very gracious and obviously she had seen the documentary,” added Rader. “she came over to me and said I love what you’re doing in Huntington, West Virginia. Then she gave me a kiss on the cheek! Meryl Streep, I mean how can you beat that?”
Former President Barak Obama was also impressed with the work he saw in the film. Rader and her costars were invited to attend a discussion at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit.
Her dedication has been noticed by the current administration as well. First Lady Melania Trump, who has made the opioid crises a priority, has twice met Rader in Huntington.
“Jan stands and holds up the person who is in the most vulnerable position but then stand beside the greatest of those in the world,” Williams said.
What came next, Rader says felt like a scene out of a movie. An email that she had been selected one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2018!
“I read the email and I thought somebody might be playing a joke on me,” Rader said jokingly.
No matter how many accolades she receives, she gives all the credit back to the community she represents.
“It’s like a recognition that Huntington, WV is changing and that’s changing the way that we operate,” said Rader.
The Time Magazine article was written in part by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
“Jan gets out there everyday and saves people’s lives,” Manchin exclaimed. “I can’t tell her how much I appreciate her.”
“I want young women to know no matter where they are, whether they’re here or all across the country or the world, that the sky’s the limit,” Rader said. “They can do what they want to do, and don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something.”