When 16-year old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed ten feet from William Lowry’s home in 2013, it created a ripple effect throughout his household and throughout the Kenwood community. Little did he know, her death would open up his eyes to the reality of violence that plagues our city and how quickly a family can endure tragedy—challenged by a simple question by his son, Evan, who asked, “Dad what are you going to do?”
The husband and father of three stepped up to the plate. After discussing it with his wife, Cheryl, they decided to gather a diverse mix of friends from different walks of life to their North Kenwood home one Saturday morning for breakfast. It was there when the plan to do more within the community took shape.
Lowry said, “It’s time to stop hiding and come out in the open and do something.” After forming The It’s Time Organization (TITO), it has partnered with long-time organization BUILD to help youth through mentorship, self-esteem and education. The group often works with students at Wendell Phillips Academy, where BUILD runs its South Side program.
After learning that Cook County Commissioner Jerry “Iceman” Butler would no longer seek re-election for the 3rd District seat—a seat he’s had for nearly 30 years—Lowry announced his candidacy to run in late August.
For the past two decades, Lowry has practiced law—heading up the firm—Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie and Lowry. Growing up on the South Side near the Avalon community, his father was a Human Resource executive and his mom was a school teacher for the past 40 years. Graduating from Francis Parker—a private and very affluent high school in Lincoln Park—Lowry went on to attend Lake Forest College. He earned his law degree from Loyola Law School.
Even though he sits on 14 boards as a volunteer advisor to notable organizations—Lowry felt his extensive experience in senior management and strategy would be more effective in public service.
“It’s time to get off the sidelines, because I think things are getting worse. I believe violence is worse and jobs are scarce in certain parts of the 3rd District. Healthcare is under siege. I cannot fathom a court system where 86 percent of the inmates are Black and brown, and 86 percent are in for nonviolent crimes and they can’t make bail. I look at how hard it is for some of our returning citizens to get a fair chance,” he says.
While out in the field, collecting petitions—Lowry found himself visiting one of the neighborhood housing complexes where he had a discussion with a young man who wasn’t registered to vote.
“He explained, ‘I just got out of jail for selling drugs. I got three daughters behind that door and I don’t want to go back. I need a job.’ I was digging in my pocket for a card and it just so happen part of a twenty-dollar bill came out. I said it was my gift to his three children with a meal,” said Lowry.
“That man looked at me and started crying—a grown man. I put him in touch with the Safer Foundation. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s another example of me being out there to help instead of being at home or in the office.”
Currently, there are seven candidates running for the Cook County Board Commissioner office in the 3rd District–a district that covers a unique area from Streeterville, Near North, Bronzeville and as southwest as the Auburn Gresham community.
“We have a number of well-meaning and qualified people running for this office. But, what sets me apart are a couple of things. My legal training—once the light goes off, you think in a way that you hadn’t thought before. You think in a 360 degree ‘holistic’ way. You peel the onion. It’s important to do when you’re faced with tough issues. Not only have I read tons of legislation, but I’ve drafted legislation. I think those are skills which will help me look at the legislation as I serve,” he said.
Lowry says as the president of the law firm, some of his responsibilities include hiring, strategic planning, policy making, financial planning, reading and preparing a budget. He says, “These are all skills that will serve the people of the 3rd District well.”
“I think it’s imperative that we need to continue to provide affordable healthcare back to our citizens of the 3rd District and Cook County. It’s important for our children, for our Medicaid recipients, for our seniors. I also think a critical component of healthcare is mental healthcare. We have teens and families in our communities who are in dire need of medical care,” Lowry says.
Along with Pastor Chris Harris, he is working on the building of the Turn Center, which is based on an Israeli model where ministers are trained to provide mental healthcare to the community, especially those suffering from PTSD.
Endorsed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Lowry admits he was not an advocate of the sweetened beverage tax and shared his thoughts with her in September.
“I have served as her Finance Chair for about seven years, so I’ve been an advisor. I applaud the overall work she’s done since she’s served in the seat. I said if that means she needs to support someone else, ‘I get it.’ She not only respected and acknowledged my independence, she thought I would be a phenomenal Commissioner and that I would do good work on behalf of the district. She gave me her support. “
His relationships with both Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Sheriff Tom Dart are familiar. He’s worked with Foxx during her time as Chief of Staff for President Preckwinkle and attended law school with Dart. He believes these relationships will allow him to have a common ground of finding viable solutions to curbing violence and assisting the citizens in the 3rd District.
He recognizes to reduce violence and crime is to increase jobs.
Lowry says, “If you’re talking about jobs, in certain parts of the district, you have to also talk about workforce development. When there are job opportunities presented, we have qualified citizens ready to take them. If you’re brining jobs to the district, in addition to workforce development, you have a plan for placement.”
Small Business & Economic Development
“We have to make sure to lean on our financial institutions to support the businesses—not only on Michigan Ave. but all of our businesses. We have some 110,000 African-American owned businesses in Cook County. That’s more than any other county in the country. Most of those businesses lack capacity because financial institutions don’t support them. People like me have to push those financial institutions,” he said.
“We need effective leadership. I define ‘effective leadership’ as communication. One thing I learned about communication is not just talking, it’s listening. I think listening is more important about communication than talking. Collaboration, which I don’t think we see enough in politics, and then action. We see a lot folks talking but are they really taking action? These are the reasons I want to do this because these are skill sets that I have.”