Jamie Lowery did not grow up in North Bay but he believes that his outside perspective will be beneficial to the city he now proudly calls home.
"I'm running for council to help improve the community," says Lowery. "I love this city, I've been coming here for 35 years. My wife's from here, her family's here, they have businesses here. I've always enjoyed the community, we were here for the Heritage Festivals and the Downtown Christmas Walks. I fell in love with North Bay."
Lowery adds, "We need a council that really thinks about the entire community. There are better ways to do things and better ways to utilize the taxes we collect already. We can be more efficient."
Lowery is the first to file nomination papers with the city clerk to run for city council. To avoid any conflict of interest Lowery has given notice of his resignation as CEO of municipally-funded long-term care facility Cassellholme and will switch his focus to work on redevelopment projects on the seniors-focused side at Castle Arms.
"Having a job that is funded by the municipality is never a good thing when running for council," Lowery says. "I'm in a position now that I can retire and take on projects now that I want to do and one of those things is run for council."
Lowery acknowledges years of negotiations and delays with the Cassellholme redevelopment project — now finally underway — and the back and forth between the board and partner municipalities have contributed to his desire to serve on the council because it has helped him see where improvements can be made.
This "community conversation," as he calls it, is crucial in moving these large projects to a resolution and the same principle applies to many future municipal projects, regardless of scale. In the redevelopment process, Lowery and the Cassellholme Board met with various levels of scrutiny from its municipal partners as financial details and borrowing practices were hashed out.
"My experience [with the Cassellholme project] wasn't the 'nice' side of politics, I would say. And, there were a lot of things, I would say, 'secret meetings,' that went on, it was not really a nice environment when we're talking about seniors. I think, at the end of the day, they were the most impacted."
For those reasons, especially, Lowery feels "transparency and community involvement are desperately needed."
Before his eight-year run at Cassellholme, Lowery was the commissioner of community services for the City of Brampton. In that role, he was responsible for the municipality's operational departments, including fire, parks and recreation, facilities, and arts and culture.
Lowery is confident his previous experiences will translate to a city council position if elected.
"The way I ran it down there is there was full transparency," he says. "One of the things the public will see once I start releasing platform information is I used to produce a report card for council and for the community to show where the money went, how it was spent, how effective it was."
Lowery says he values customer service and places an emphasis on achieving it in his dealings. This was an essential part of the report card model — something that Lowery says was not just a one-year report but rather a rolling year-over-year comparison.
"We can do more, as a community," he says. "When I first started coming here, the schools were lively, there were the festivals, and I think a bit of that sense of community has been lost."
Asked what he would bring to the council table to combat that, Lowery responds that it will take "community building."
In recent years, Lowery has dabbled in municipal affairs beyond his role at Cassellholme. In 2018, he was heavily involved in a private proposal to redevelop a portion of the North Bay Mall property into a twin-pad arena with community amenities to not only replace the imminent loss of the ice surface at West Ferris Arena but add another ice pad to the mix.
"If you're going to be spending money on infrastructure, it has to do more than replace infrastructure, it has to do more for the community. That arena would have rejuvenated an entire community. It was going to become a hub, seniors could use it, it wasn't just an arena. It was going to have a larger impact."
Lowery adds, "It's really about looking at the community as a whole and making those investments that are actually going to improve its position as opposed to just replacing it."
Lowery says he is a listener and someone who will value the opinions of others, around the council table and in the community.
"I listen to all opinions. Mine isn't always the best," he observes. "Taking a consultative approach, that's the part that's really missing. Decisions have to make sense on multiple levels — not just financial, not just because it's easy to do. There are other ways to do things and it's about making decisions that make sense for the whole community.
"North Bay always chases the shiny object and when it doesn't work out right away, we abandon it. You've got to push through, you've got to keep working and have some work ethic."
Lowery joins Peter Chirico (mayor) and Jay Aspin (Near North District School Board trustee) as candidates who have filed to date. The deadline for nominations is Friday, August 19 at 2 p.m. but candidates will not be certified until Monday, August 22 at 4:30 p.m. The municipal election day is Monday, October 24.