As the City of Lowell gears towards the elections in November, one candidate is positively changing the drift on how local communities view city elections.
Sokhary Chau, 44, was born and raised in Cambodia and learned leadership skills from his father who was a community leader, killed at war with the communists in the Cambodian military.
Like many immigrants, Chau escaped the war in Cambodia and was sponsored by the Catholic church in 1981 to come to the USA.
Chau settled in Lowell in 1986 after he was enthralled by the job market that was flourishing in local factories. He boasts of having the best understanding of local education system, having studied in the area before he won a scholarship to join Phillips Academy in Andover.
”I was like fish out of water, obviously, you know, I was poor, I was an immigrant, I came from a war-torn country….you know” he recounted, ”finding myself in Philips Academy made me realize that anybody can make it to the top if you work hard, and that’s the spirit of Lowell” Chau told Jamhuri News.
Chau has been actively involved in local politics and has in the past played major roles in community development, working closely with elected leaders as well as community leaders particularly in minority groups in Lowell.
In a city made of diverse communities, Chau has become a household name as he spends most of his free time meeting with residents in social gatherings. Even before he decided to run, you’d find Chau at local events networking or having a good time with community members, or with the youth mentoring them.
In a city that has come from less than 10 percent to 49 percent minority in less than four decades, Chau feels there’s need to transform the city leadership as well.
He believes that what is lacking at City Hall is quality and competent leadership blended with diversity.
While Chau emphasizes how paramount diversity is in all institutions, he says he’s not in the race to represent just the minority, but to bring on board his skills acquired from working with people from all walks of life.
”Everybody should feel represented and should be able to participate in civic engagement without separation” Chau said.
BUSINESS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Planning infrastructural development for an old city like Lowell can be a difficult task; but for Chau, he says all it takes is skilled planning, experience, and everything else falls into place. He says if he gets to the City Hall, he will work with other officials to initiate the streamlining of issues affecting business owners in the city.
”For small businesses in the city to thrive, we need to reduce the red tape and cut out equipment taxes….any additional taxes in small businesses is hurting the thriving force of the city” Chau says, adding that having been a small business owner gives him a better understanding and approach.
Chau speaks passionately about the need for modern technology in the way the city operates.
For instance, regarding the recent ruling by a Middlesex Superior Court judge on whether to relocate Lowell High School from downtown to Belvidere, Chau believes building a new state of the art facility would help improve the school in many ways.
”If it costs relatively the same amount of money to build a new building compared to renovating the old one, why not build a brand a new one with the state of the art technology and improve the quality of education?” he poses…”a new building will have green energy, safe environment, larger fields and tracks, after-school programs and more” he adds.
Chau commends the city officials on the development of different areas of the city, but he thinks they need to start planning and budgeting for a new police department and intensification of community policing.
According to Chau, based on what is happening around the world, an enhanced police department with extra training would keep Lowell city prepared for any major disaster.
On immigration, Chau says he will be the proponent to protect all residents including undocumented immigrants, who arrive in the city because of its hospitable environment and do not pose a threat to the city.
Chau has taken it upon himself to educate the community on the need to vote. He says although his wish is to get the most votes, he’d be equally happy if the majority of registered voters turned out to vote for their favorite candidates since that is where city success begins.