New Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan is passionate about Vancouver and his new job. He sees the mayor’s office as a continuation of his long record of public service that includes years of working with non-profit community organizations and 12 years as a Vancouver city councillor.
What do you see as your greatest achievement?
Quite frankly it’s my ability to live independently as a quadriplegic (Sullivan broke his neck while skiing at age 19).
What was the turning point in your life?
Seven years after my injury when I was very depressed and living on welfare in social housing, I concluded that I was going to have to do things differently and take on a new attitude. I began to set goals and made a concerted effort to help others. I found when I was focusing on helping others overcome their obstacles I was able to feel a lot better about myself and be more motivated.
Why did you get into civic politics?
I had been involved in creating non-profit societies and was volunteering for non-profit initiatives, and in the course of doing this I met a number of people involved in politics. Former provincial cabinet minister Grace McCarthy suggested that I consider running for council. I had spent quite a few years improving the lives of others with disabilities, and I realized government had lots to do with that area. [I] decided [being a councillor] would be an extension of what I’d been doing.
Do you have federal or provincial aspirations?
No – I’m completely immersed in the city. I think it’s a wonderful position and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Vancouver.
What do you want Vancouver to be like after your first term as mayor?
I would like to think we would be considered an urban forum that involves high-quality densification. I’d also like to see us move forward the agenda of harm reduction and the four pillars approach.
Why did you choose SFU?
One reason was because I was conscious that it was more accessible, but I was also aware that it had a good reputation.
What is your best memory of SFU?
The best memories concern some of the people that I met – I developed some good friendships and had good professors in the process. I started the Disabled Students Association.
Was there any program at SFU that particularly influenced you?
I took various courses that had an impact on the way that I think – economics, linguistics, organizational behaviour, and some sciences – that really opened my eyes to the fascinating increase in knowledge that humans have achieved.
Do you have any time for relaxation?
I guess I have really developed an approach to life that is very goal oriented, and I don’t even notice how goal oriented I am. But I enjoy it – to me what I do is not work. My agenda is filled with all sorts of interesting social events so I get to see some of the most fascinating parts of the city.
What sort of music do you listen to?
I listen mostly to chamber music. I like the collaboration and congeniality of the chamber style; I like to be able to have all the parts clear and distinguishable.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading about particle physics – it’s quite remarkable how much we know and how the theory fits the data. I’m also reading Roman and Italian history.