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MLC Capitol Spotlight: An Interview with Representative James Lower

Apr 13, 2017

Representative James Lower (R-Cedar Lake) was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2016.  He represents the 70th House District, which includes Montcalm County and a portion of Gratiot County.  Prior to being elected to the House, Representative Lower worked as Executive Director for a small national consulting firm.  He was also a legislative assistant in both the Michigan House and Senate.  Representative Lower earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Grand Valley State University.  Previously, he was a member of the Ionia County Commission and a member of the Montcalm Economic Alliance.

Representative Lower serves as chair of the House Local Government Committee, as well as a member of the Energy, Communications and Technology, and Tax Policy committees.

1.    What attracted you to running for the Legislature?

Overall, I really just wanted to make the state a better place for everyone. There are several key issues I would like to address that could help our state today and set the table for 20 years from now. I enjoy public service and helping our community.

2.    When did you first realize you wanted to be a Dem/GOP?  
I realized in high school and college That was when I really started to think about where I stood on the issues.

a.    What attributes of your party do you most identify with?
I identify most with personal responsibility and freedom, opportunity, and accountability.

3.    What individuals from your community have shaped and prepared you to be a legislator?

My parents, grandparents, former Rep. Rick Outman. Lt. Governor Brian Calley, my friend Steve Mitchell, and my wife Kristen. They, and many others, have helped prepare me for this job.

4.    What issues would you like to advocate for because of a personal life experience?

I really want to work on tax reform and restructuring the way we deliver services at the state and local level. There are plenty of opportunities to make government more fair, efficient, and effective. I would like to lead a conversation on redesigning the way we structure, fund, and organize local government from a service delivery standpoint.

5.    What do you anticipate being the biggest difference serving as a legislator compared with your experience as a local official?

I served as both a local elected official (county commissioner) and as an appointed official (city manager). The biggest difference is the process. At the local level, you only have to get a handful of people to vote for or consent to a proposal or policy. In the legislature, you need 56 votes in the house, 20 in the senate, and the governor’s signature. That is a longer process with many more people involved. In order to be effective, you must manage a lot more moving parts. That will be the biggest difference.

6.    How has your previous career, political or private sector, shaped the legislator you will be?

I have worked in private industry, served as a local official, and worked as a staff person in both the Michigan House and Senate. The background has given me a huge advantage in understanding the legislative process, the art of deal making, and how to be effective. Overall, I am in a great position to make a difference for my district and the state.

7.    What one thing would you like to highlight that makes your district special?

Montcalm and Gratiot counties have weathered some incredibly severe storms. The loss of jobs during the recession hit our area particularly hard. However, what makes my district special is that we never lost faith and we never quit fighting. Things are starting to turn around now. But, there is still a long way to go. However, my district is special because of its toughness and fighting spirit.

8.    What are some of your favorite activities to participate in on your free time?

I love spending time with my family and traveling around the state. Bow and gun hunting are probably my favorite pastimes. I also enjoy anything related to aviation and the outdoors. Finally, I am an avid student of history. I enjoy reading about history and watching documentaries.

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