I’ve always believed when you’re blessed you must give back — and I’ve been giving back my entire adult life through hard work, service and volunteerism. I think that’s what we need in government: People with integrity; people who engage; people who will listen; people who are willing to fight; people who are willing to compromise; and, people who are willing solve problems not just identify them.
I believe in democracy, leadership, accountability and being accessible. This is why I am running as a Democrat for the office of Cook County Commissioner, 3rd District, and asking for your support in Illinois’ Primary Election on March 20, 2018.
There are both promise and problems in our district that is best illustrated by looking at geographic areas the 3rd District serves. We are the Gold Coast. We are the Soul Coast. We best represent the tale of “two Chicagos,” one that is well-resourced, brimming with revenue and opportunity, and the other where I’ve witnessed people treated like outsiders—separate, unequal and unseen.
That is why when I am elected as the next commissioner, I will work to build sustainable, mutually beneficial, multicultural communities throughout the District. I will work to ensure people have access to high quality health care including mental health care and dental care; that we have revenue to support County services and protect jobs; and, that we continue to find ways to reduce the juvenile and adult jail populations by creating programs that reduce recidivism and re-integrate people back into society.
I believe in hard work. I believe together we can get it done.
Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, I understood the importance of family, faith and community. I was a kid with big dreams, who loved to play with friends and do what kids do. My parents took our family to church each Sunday where the Christian value of “love thy neighbor” rang the loudest in my spirit. My father, Bill, is a well-regarded civil rights and civic leader, and my mother, Lil, is a retired teacher, homemaker and minister who taught us a sense of pride, self-worth and humility.
My parents taught my sister Kim and I to value our education as if it were pieces of gold. After graduating with honors from St. Felicitas Elementary School, I went to St. Francis De Sales High School where I played point guard on the basketball team and excelled in academics. It was there, while leaving a basketball game with teammates, that I experienced my first overt act of racism and violence. As we were walking toward our destinations, a car pulled up, the window rolled down and someone inside yelled the “N word” and then fired a gun at us. The incident rattled me to my core, and after telling my parents, they withdrew me from that school and enrolled me at Francis W. Parker on the City’s North Side the following week.
After graduating from Parker, I enrolled in Lake Forest College where I majored in history with a minor in political science and received my undergraduate degree in 1984. While at Lake Forest, I became active in local politics when I joined a coalition of youth in support of Harold Washington For Mayor of Chicago in 1983 and joined hundreds of other teenagers in canvassing neighborhoods and talking to voters. My work on this historic campaign, and the others that followed, showed me the power of democracy in action and what people could do if they came together.
Equal to my passion for history and politics is my love of the law. With Thurgood Marshall as my mentor, I enrolled in Loyola University Law School and graduated in 1987 with a juris doctorate. While at Loyola, I was taught by Norman Amaker, one of Thurgood Marshall’s civil rights attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It is in memory of Professor Amaker that I, with others, started the Amaker Scholarship at Loyola Law School to support students of color in their pursuit of a legal education. I passed the bar and became a 24-year-old lawyer focused on employer liability and workers’ compensation law. I’ve been published in legal journals and have received numerous awards. I am a member of the American Bar Association, Illinois Bar Association, Chicago Bar Association, Cook County Bar Association and the Workers’ Compensation Bar Association. Today, I am president and equity partner of Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry, P.C., a firm in downtown Chicago that has more than 50 attorneys and 100 employees.
Twenty-seven years ago, I married the love of my life – – Dr. Cheryl D. Watson-Lowry, a dentist with a passion for helping the under-served. We built a life together based on love, commitment, honesty and friendship. Thriving in the Kenwood community and are raising three wonderful and brilliant children, Bill Jr., who is in Loyola law school; Evan, who is a senior at DePaul University; and Clarke, who is a sophomore at the University of Southern California.
With a passion for service and a dedication to building communities, in 2014 I was tapped by the governor to serve on the Illinois Capital Development Board, becoming the first African-American in the state’s history ever afforded a seat on this powerful commission. Now serving as the Board’s vice-chairman, I have championed diversity, inclusion and access to capital for minority and women-owned businesses, and I have worked to ensure Veterans Business Enterprises have the resources they need to be successful.
I have always felt that even with my accomplishments in law and my passion for politics that I could always do more. I want children and older youth to have the opportunities and positive experiences that I was afforded to me. I have been outspoken about the under-resourcing of public schools and the lack of vocational training and jobs for our youth. That is why of the 14 board of directors I was invited to serve on, many involve children and addressing racial and economic disparities, including the Chicago Children’s Museum, Loyola University Law School, the Ancona Montessori School, Bright Star Community Outreach, the University of Chicago Police Department Community Advisory Board and Lake Forest College Board of Trustees.
Even with all of my volunteerism and hopeful outlook, nothing could prepare me for the act of violence that happened on January 29, 2013 when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed just 10 feet from our doorstep. Our family joined the community in outrage and despair, but after my son Evan challenged us to “do something” we joined leaders in prayer and founded The It’s Time Organization (TITO). I told all of my neighbors and anyone who would listen, “It’s time for us to stop hiding. We need to step up and play a role in our community.” So, we organized.
TITO is a not-for-profit founded in Hadiya’s memory with an emphasis of reducing youth conflict and violence by creating jobs and opportunities for young people. Our area of focus is in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Wards of Chicago, and through our efforts we have secured internships, summer employment and mentorships for many of our youth through the years.
Through the years I have gained experience, leadership and an understanding of the role of government. I have served as the Finance Chair for Toni Preckwinkle For County Board President, and have served as member of the finance committees for Obama for President; Obama for U.S. Senate; Friends of Robin Kelly; Kurt Summers for Chicago; Friends of Kwame Raoul; Friends of Leslie Hairston and Friends of Alexi Giannoulias for U.S. Senate.
I love Chicago and I believe that when people put their minds together we can do great things. As the next Cook County Commissioner of the 3rd District I will provide effective leadership rooted in communication, collaboration and action.