Mayor Sam Sullivan is interviewed by Al Roker for NBC's The Today Show in Torino on February 24, 2006.

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.

Photograph courtesy City of Vancouver - Mayor's Office