It was the highway that brought Leah Groves to Lowell. With parents on the east side of the state, she was looking for a place that would allow her to quickly hop onto I-96 for visits to her childhood home. Lowell seemed like the perfect fit, with it being only a few minutes north of the interchange.
However, like many people who end up in Lowell via happenstance, Groves quickly discovered she loved this little town, with its friendly people, picturesque Riverwalk and many parks and trails.
“I’ve been so pleased,” she says of her new home. So when she saw a notice seeking applicants for a spot on Lowell City Council late last year, she thought it sounded like a perfect opportunity to get more involved in the community.
Current councilmembers interviewed five people for the position and agreed that Groves would bring a fresh perspective to the council as a newer resident and as a mother to young children. She was selected by a unanimous vote and attended her first meeting as a new councilmember on December 10, 2020.
Excited for Opportunities to Connect
Groves grew up in Commerce, Michigan, where she says she had an idyllic childhood. Now 30, she is the youngest of four siblings and maintains a close bond to her family. While she loved her home on the east side of the state, she headed west to be with her future husband in Grand Rapids.
While the marriage ended, Groves wanted her boys – 6-year old Lleyton and 4-year old Beck – to be near their dad. Lowell seemed like a good landing spot between Grand Rapids and her family to the east.
“When I first moved here, I felt Lowell had this sense of camaraderie,” she says. “It did not take me long to feel received.” Although she didn’t have any friends or family here when she arrived, it didn’t take long to meet new people. That welcoming atmosphere helped endear the city to Groves, who found herself looking for new ways to make more connections while also serving the community.
“I took a year to feel it out,” says Groves, who has been a resident of the city for about a year and a half now. Then, she decided it was time to get involved. “I think it was because of COVID that I decided I needed to be [more] connected somehow.”
Although she’s been a member of Lowell City Council for two months, she has yet to attend a meeting with all her fellow councilmembers in person. The COVID-19 pandemic has moved public meetings to the Zoom videoconferencing platform, but that hasn’t stopped other members from making her feel like she belongs.
“The councilmembers, the mayor and the city manager have all been very helpful,” Groves says.
Supporting Families and the Community
Professionally, Groves has spent much of her life working in childcare, and she is currently preparing to open her own business, Home Harmony, as a postpartum doula.
While doulas are traditionally thought of as people who assist during childbirth, a postpartum doula helps families adjust to life with a newborn. “It’s not just for birth mothers,” Groves adds. Adoptive parents can also benefit from the services of a postpartum doula.
That desire to help families is echoed in her goals for her time on Lowell City Council. When asked about her priorities as a councilmember, Groves says she wants to create community connections. While that involves the city taking steps to support small businesses and create policies that benefit residents, community involvement is also crucial.
“The heart of any city [is] the people who care for it,” she notes. Groves hopes more people will get involved, either formally by sitting on boards and commissions or informally by sharing their ideas and enthusiasm. She explains, “I want to build up everyone in the community.”
For now, she is soaking in everything there is to learn about Lowell and how it’s run. She looks forward to the day when the pandemic is over so councilmembers can meet in person and have face-to-face discussions with residents. In the meantime, you can catch her on Zoom on the first and third Mondays of each month where she and four other councilmembers discuss city policies, address ongoing issues and consider ideas that will continue to make Lowell the place to be.
Photos provided courtesy of Leah Groves.