Kim Santiago, Provo City’s only female council member, said being the mother of an autistic child would turn out to be her most refining challenge.
“He’s the one thing in our lives that could keep us on our toes and bring us to our knees,” Santiago said.
Santiago’s oldest son was diagnosed with autism as a toddler when she was pregnant with her second child.
Santiago said she realized denial wouldn’t help her son and hit the books, learning everything she could about her son’s life ahead.
Santiago said her experience raising her son gave her a “strong constitution,” which she carries over into her work with the city council.
She first got involved with the council because of the bus rapid transit route through Provo. A bust stop was planned to be placed outside the Creamery on Ninth, but Santiago thought it should be moved because the stop would be across the street from Wasatch Elementary School. Santiago pushed to have it moved closer to the Wilkinson Student Center. She was elected to the council in 2014. She was assigned over District 2, which covers an area in the middle of Provo, including BYU.
Council member Gary Winterton, who worked with Santiago on bus rapid transit, said he doesn’t always agree with her points of view, but they can reasonably talk through disagreements, and he can still consider her a friend.
“I have very much respected her abilities and viewpoints,” Winterton said.
Winterton said Kim Santiago had valuable input on all the challenges they faced. The fact that she is the only woman has no meaning to Winterton when it comes to their discussions and decisions.
Santiago said she refuses to bend to pressure and does what she feels is right no matter what. Council member David Knecht said Santiago stands for what she believes in, “even if that means taking a view opposite of the mayor.”
Council member, David Sewell, nicknamed Santiago “the Iron Lady” because of how firm she can be.
Knecht said Santiago’s background in nursing from BYU and BYU-Idaho makes her perspective valuable.
Santiago took on the concerns of local physicians who worried about injuries among young people at tumbling sport gyms and created trampoline gym regulations, bringing together even those divided by litigation to make the business of recreational trampolining safer.
Despite her education and knowledge of the medical field, Santiago said being a nurse was only a backup career.
“I was always going to be a stay-at-home mom,” Santiago said. “It was unusual for me to take on something like this.”
She married Brian Santiago, now the senior associate athletics director at BYU. Soon after, they moved to Fresno where she loved and practiced nursing for five more years.
“I like to work with people and help people,” Kim Santiago said.
Santiago’s husband, Brian, Senior Associate Athletics Director at BYU, said he has seen her shine and stand tall, and has been amazed as he and his children have watched her have a positive influence and work with restless dedication throughout her time on the city council.
“She’s got incredible life experience and perspective,” Brian Santiago said.
Kim Santiago said she has high hopes for all young adults today.
Her advice to them is to “Do it. Try it. See if you like it. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different and stand with confidence.”