DAMASCUS, Va. — Katie Lamb is an artist, an entrepreneur, an animal lover and a people person.
“But I am not a politician,” she said with a laugh.
“I’m just a person who loves Damascus and cares about the town and the people in it,” said Lamb, 49, who unseated longtime Damascus Mayor Jack McCrady in the Nov. 3 election, becoming the second woman in Damascus to hold the office.
It’s believed that Elizabeth McKee, a school teacher and librarian, was the town’s first female mayor.
Lamb won the office with 206 votes.
She’s had her eye on the office since 2018, when she first ran for mayor but was defeated.
“I feel elated, blessed and grateful to be the town’s next mayor,” said Lamb during a recent walk down Main Street.
“Perhaps it’s something I’ve been preparing for most of my life,” she said.
Lamb, who attended the old Rock School in town as an elementary student, credits the leadership skills she learned as a 4-H member for helping her to pursue the office of mayor.
“Through 4-H, I learned some of the best life skills that I continue to use throughout my life — working together, dedication and responsibility.
“I firmly believe good leadership brings out the best in people and helps them do better,” she said.
Time for change
Lamb, who will take the reins as mayor in January, talked about her motivation for running for the office and her plans for the coming days.
The time is right, she said, to make changes in the trail town known for its charm and abundant outdoor opportunities.
“I think a lot of people are feeling the same way,” she said.
“I see a need for new leadership,” said Lamb. “I want to provide a transparent government that gets more people involved.
“The townspeople are often left in the dark about what’s going on in town. As spectators at council meetings, we don’t know what is being voted on, and we don’t get the minutes until they [are] approved a month later,” she said.
“We need to get more people involved in the town government and let their voices be heard. It’s not what we want as individuals — it’s what is best for the community. We’re all in this together,” said Lamb.
As mayor, she wants to provide more services to the residents, such as trash pickup and recycling programs.
“I also want to focus on local businesses. Sometimes, the town gets fixated on the benefits of tourism, which is great, but often local business folks are neglected. As a previous business owner, I know how important that support can be.
“I want to treat everyone equally — I feel very strongly about this.”
Lamb will look into allocating funds dedicated to the Damascus Volunteer Rescue Squad. These funds do not exist at this time.
“I think this is important that the rescue folks get some funding. After all, they are rescuing our lives,” she said.
The mayor-elect envisions the town as a Hallmark destination in the winter.
“This town could look just like a Hallmark Christmas movie,” said Lamb, with excitement in her voice. “Attracting more people to a holiday atmosphere would be great for our restaurants, lodging and retail. This would bring more people to town when hiking and biking is not at peak season.”
'Passionate about this town'
Lamb’s goals to improve the leadership and direction of the town are driven by her passion for her hometown.
Traveling in a small van crammed with her belongings, Lamb moved to Richmond to attend college at Virginia Commonwealth University just a week after her high school graduation in 1989.
“I told my mother I was never coming back home,” she said with a laugh.
After college, Lamb worked as a graphic artist in New York City for 11 years.
As a young adult working in New York City, Lamb never lost sight of this place she calls home.
“After 9/11, I knew I wanted to go home. In 2008, I sold my home and moved back to Damascus.
“Even when I lived in New York, I knew this was home. I pined for the simplicity and the kindness here. That’s what is lacking in a big city. Damascus is a small town — we know about each other, and we care about each other. We’re a family, and family always comes first,” she said.
Since returning to Damascus, Lamb has juggled a number of careers.
From 2016-2018, she owned and operated an art vendor store on Main Street in town.
She and her business partner, Brian Zier, now operate BZ Builders. With the help of her graphic art skills, they are a Design-Build team, a project delivery system used in the construction industry. Lamb creates the design of the project on the computer, and Zier builds the structures to customer specifications.
Lamb and Zier built their first tiny house a few years ago after being inspired by the ones they saw on HGTV.
The couple enjoys hiking, biking and caring for four cats and a black Lab named Jethro.
No matter how busy life gets, the mayor-elect always takes time out of her day for an evening stroll in town.
It’s there she feels the most at home, surrounded by the mountains of Southwest Virginia and the townspeople she loves.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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