When Leah Groves moved to Lowell two years ago, she had no plans to get involved in local government. However, the 31-year-old single mother of two boys was interested in becoming an active part of the community. While the COVID-19 pandemic made that more difficult, she quickly found Lowell to be a welcoming place that felt like home.
“It felt like I was walking in Gilmore Girls,” Groves says, referencing a popular television series set in a small, close-knit town. “When I moved to Lowell, it was an overwhelming sense of community.”
Late last year, Groves heard there was an opening on Lowell City Council and decided to throw her hat in the ring. She had low expectations, considering how new she was to the community, and was surprised when she was the one selected for the spot. In hindsight, she says the fact that she was new to town and brings a fresh perspective may have been to her advantage.
“Maybe that’s exactly what this town needs,” she says. Groves is the only woman currently on city council, and the only member with young children at home. “I bring a different perspective than anyone else at the table.”
With her term on Lowell City Council set to expire this year, Groves is one of four people running for three seats in the November general election. She hopes voters will return her to her seat for a full term because, she says, “Quite frankly, I’m not done yet.”
Making Lowell a Place Where People Belong
It didn’t take long for Groves to make a difference on the council. Just a few months into her tenure, she cast the deciding vote on whether the city should pay the first-year insurance premium for the new Showboat. “You can’t have a boat on a river and not have it insured,” she explains.
However, her long-term vision for Lowell goes beyond those types of practical decisions. Instead, she wants to focus on making the community a place where all members feel valued and heard.
“Community does not mean you have to agree,” Groves says. “It means you work together.”
To that end, Groves has actively encouraged people to attend Lowell City Council meetings and volunteer for various boards and commissions. She notes that it’s important many people representing a variety of backgrounds be involved in city decision-making.
“I like to think that I’ve played a role in getting people involved,” she says. Certainly, that seems to be the case with more people in regular attendance at council meetings since her appointment, and at least two people apparently put in applications to fill board vacancies after talking to Groves.
“Heart of Gold” and Desire to Help
In addition to being a member of Lowell City Council, Groves sits on the Parks and Recreation Commission, Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce Board and Arbor Board. She hopes to also become involved in the Lowell Education Foundation. Her boys attend Bushnell Elementary School.
Between parenting and her city council duties, Groves works as a parent mentor for the non-profit Michigan Alliance for Families. She says a commitment to service is central to all that she does.
“That’s what I’m all about – taking care of your neighbor,” she explains. When asked why people should elect her to city council, Groves prefaces her answer by explaining it is meant in the humblest way possible before saying, “I have a heart of gold.”
According to Groves, she will do whatever it takes to help others, whether they agree or differ with her on various issues. As a councilmember, she hopes to encourage and inspire others to do the same.
“I’m just getting started,” Groves says. “I feel it takes a while to get your footing (on city council).” Now that she feels like she has found her place, she hopes Lowell voters will keep her on council for another term so she can continue the work she has started.