Le Lowry, Board candidate in political office since age 24

When I ran for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees, I was already serving as an elected Representative of the Poor with the City of San Antonio, and as a precinct chair with the Bexar County Democratic Party. This was my first run for office outside of those two positions. The article posted below is from San Antonio College’s student newspaper, the Ranger.

Le Lowry
Board candidate in political office since age 24
By: Amber Whittaker
Posted: 4/6/06

If 30-year-old Le Lowry is elected to the district board, his age won’t be the only characteristic to distinguish him from other trustees. Lowry is opposing incumbent Charles Conner, board chairman and District 7 representative.

Lowry is a Buddhist and a self-described “Army brat” who was raised in South Korea and Okinawa. He now lives with his family on the North Side. The teaching assistant at North East Transition School has struggled with Tourette’s syndrome and bouts of depression stemming from the disorder.

“When you make funny noises, people pick on you. I spent a lot of time on my own,” Lowry said, referring to adolescence before he was diagnosed with Tourette’s.

The disorder, which manifests itself as quick, sporadic grunts instead of the commonly recognized erratic string of words or profanity, was ignored as a quirk until he was 19.
But it is no longer an obstacle for him. “It’s been a source of strength for me,” Lowry said.
He said because of the depression, he may never know consistent happiness, “But I’m going to be damned if I’m going to let someone have a miserable life if they don’t have to.”

That political conviction was strengthened in 1999 when Lowry campaigned in Minnesota for the implementation of a fusion ballot, which would allow candidates to run as a member of multiple parties on the same ballot. Lowry has since abandoned the cause. But not his civic duty. “We have to do more than vote,” he said about young people.

In 2000, Lowry was elected as an alternate to the Community Action Advisory Board as a representative for the poor, as well as a Democratic precinct chair. In January he became a regular member of the Advisory board, which provides oversight for social programs in the city.

Lowry’s political views were influenced by his Army background, where he said his family was part of a community very different from civilian life.

In 1999 before he ran for office, his mother took him to her family home in Vietnam.
“You know that song ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’? Well, I left my heart in Saigon,” Lowry said.

While Vietnam is communist, Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, did not remind Lowry of what he imagined communism to look like. “The city was bustling with life. You don’t see serious and sad people. They are very industrious, very community-minded. Neighbors get involved with each other,” Lowry said.

Lowry has attended college here, as well as the University of Texas at San Antonio and St. Mary’s University. He said he wants the colleges of this district to be a place for the city to gather and for culture to spread to other areas. Lowry is planning informal meet and greets at several coffee shops in town, but he will be running a mostly Internet-based campaign. His Web site is http://www.lelowry.com.

While Lowry said he doesn’t earn enough money on his modest teacher’s assistant salary to spare for an ambitious campaign, he’s not deterred.

“If you can take care of yourself, you have to help other people.”

© Copyright 2007 The Ranger 

Civil society and the Alamo Colleges Trustee run-off elections

If you read the article from the Ranger I posted earlier, you may know that I was a candidate for the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees, in 2006. You also may have noticed when reading that post that there are two run-off elections for seats on that board tomorrow, Saturday, 21 June. The seats in question are for districts 4 and 8.

I want to follow up on that old article and to tell my story of why I ran for a seat way back then. It may shed light on why someone like me would run for an elected office that is thankless, pays nothing, and does require honest, hard effort at. For me it all began, while I was working with a student at San Antonio College. Then I worked as a job coach with the North East School District, working with an adult student with disabilities. The job entailed working with those students in preparing them for life outside of the public school system. The student I was with had an interest in anime and SAC happened to have an anime club at the time. While the student was at the club meeting, I was reading the Ranger outside the door of the classroom my student was in.

There was an article in the school’s paper talking about the upcoming board elections and that no one up for election at that point had an opponent. The chairman of the board at the time took that as a sign of proud accomplishment. I took his statement more as indifference among voters and arrogance from him. The next day, I was a candidate opposing one of the other board members.

As you can imagine my frustration turned inward to my positive experiences growing up on military bases and being a student in the Department of Defense school system and how that was a positive part of me not just as a student, but as an adult later on. From my family and the other families on base, I understood how neighbors can come together to help one another and build a strong community and culture. In those schools, I learned to ask questions, to question authority, and how that was essential to civil society and was the answer to a government that can easily lose touch with the community it serves.
My experiences visiting my family in Vietnam in 1999 reinforced that too. And my struggles with mental illness and my service on the Community Action Advisory Board, where I got to see poverty, homelessness, and hunger up close and hear the stories of those who were making it our of poverty, and those that were struggling to, those experiences reminded me that if we can take care of ourselves, then perhaps we have a civil obligation to help others so they can take care of themselves too.

Early frustrations and anger at what I saw as an arrogant, out of touch, trustee, who wasn’t even my opponent… turned to a community, people centered message tied by my own up and down life experiences and the stories I not only heard and saw, but also lived.

My platform was simple, our community colleges as centers of community and culture, tying the surrounding neighbors to those colleges with the students that attend them. The colleges needed to build closer bonds with the neighborhood, primarily through the public and private schools around them. The district needed to build closer bonds with the businesses were, students could go and hang out, study, socialize, etc. The idea was to build a more holistic relationship with not just the neighborhoods, but with students, faculty, administration, businesses that could allow for more open communication, open transparency in the decisions the board of trustees and district administration makes, and create a campus life that would positively impact student’s education and future in our city.

Really, my platform was even simpler than that. As trustees, we just needed to go out and talk with our students, faculty, and neighbors. In the end, I was perhaps seen as too idealistic by the few who voted. My opponent, the incumbent won, and later resigned to move on with life before his term was over. He sighted communication problems as a key reason for resigning.

No, I have no intention of running for a seat on the Alamo College Board of Trustees anytime soon, if ever. The trustee who represents me is well qualified and seems to do a good job on the board and even if she were to not run again, I’ve moved on too.
Still there is an election tomorrow and if you are registered to vote and live in either district I encourage you to learn about our colleges board of trustees, the important role it plays in our community and the candidates that are in the run-off. I’m not asking you to vote, but to play a role in our civil society and if you choose to vote, to vote smart tomorrow.

In the Alamo College Board of Trustee, District No. 4 run-off election the candidates are Albert R. Herrera and Lorena “Lorraine” Pulido. In District No. 8 the candidates in the run-off election are Clint Kingsbery and Gary Beitzel.

Where am I going?

On the Tumblr site I have been following up on the mishaps of the Bexar County Democratic Party and in particular its chair, Dan Ramos. While reading and then posting these articles I have been pondering my own place in local politics. Currently I sit as a Representative of the Poor on the Community Action Advisory Board. I am going to say you haven’t heard of such a position. I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t, the work of CAAB and its elected Representatives of the Poor and other board members are way under the radar in San Antonio, Texas. This my twelve year on the board, and most likely my final year as well.

Where am I going after sitting on CAAB? I have been thinking about running for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees again. I ran for a seat last election, in 2006, and only got 20% of the vote. But I would like to believe that I have learned from past campaign mistakes and will be in a better position to run, if in fact that is what I want to do in 2012.

If I do make the move to run again, I would expect this site to change, as it has been my previous campaign website. You can also expect me to make more relevant use of social media networks, in particular Facebook and Twitter.

So, when will I make a decision on running? I expect at the earliest it would be later in May and at the latest sometime in November, 2011. The election for the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees is in May 2012, after the Primary elections in March, so like last time I could expect this one to be another low turnout election, even if it is in the midst of what I expect to be a contentious presidential election year.