A familiar face to Barrie residents is receiving international accolades.
Mayor Jeff Lehman sits at the 26th spot on Fast Company’s 10th annual list of the Most Creative People in Business which honours a group of 100 leaders from a vast range of global industries including tech, design, entertainment, health care, media, government, non-profit, finance, food, and more.
“It’s very flattering to be on a list like this along with people who did much braver things or inventive things,” Lehman said Wednesday in an interview with BarrieToday.
The list, which was released on May 22, recognizes individuals whose work is not always quantifiable by numbers, but who are having a measurable impact by accomplishing something new this year within their field that’s driving their industries forward and solving global and societal problems in novel ways.
There are three initiatives highlighted in the article that planted Lehman firmly on the list this year: the city’s discounts on industrial development charges, the Barr's Motel conversion project (Lucy’s Place) and the Community Paramedicine Program.
In regards to industrial development charges, Lehman says that the city provided a discount to manufacturing and industrial developers from 2014 to 2018.
“I wanted to keep Barrie cost competitive to try to attract manufacturing and help them them to grow,” he said. “It was important to me, for every development charge bylaw that I've been a part of, I have pushed to have an industrial discount so our industrial rate stays lower and therefore more competitive.
“Something you always hear people say here is, there are only jobs in retail. This is one of the things we’re doing to try to combat that,” he added.
Both the Barr’s Motel project and the Community Paramedicine Program are County of Simcoe initiatives, but Lehman says he worked hard to make sure he was heard on their importance.
“The Barr’s Motel project came about because I went to county staff and said that we badly needed this supportive housing for our affordable housing strategy. I give the County of Simcoe full marks on this because... it wasn’t city money that made that happen, it was county money that made that happen,” said Lehman, further clarifying that the City of Barrie is the single largest funding source for the county.
While the Community Paramedicine pilot project did happen in Barrie, the funding hasn’t yet come through for it to be rolled out full time in the city.
“When we sit in the county council chambers and county staff come forward and say they’ve got a pilot program, and would we support funding it, like, I’m going to get up and say yes, and you should do twice as much of it, because these are amazing projects,” said Lehman. “That’s the extent of my role. I’m just the champion.”
Lehman says when he did the interview with Fast Company, he made it clear that he was not the innovator.
“When I did the interview with (Fast Company), I said to him, this was not my idea,” Lehman said with a laugh. “Neither was Barr’s Motel. They’re not my ideas. I’m just the champion.”
“I think the role for us in government, and the reason it’s nice for us to be recognized, is that politicians are typically pretty risk-adverse. We don’t want staff to do new things sometimes because it might not work,” he said. “If something doesn’t go well, we get blamed. It’s not staff members that get blamed ever, it’s the politicians. And that’s fine. That’s why we run in elections and we are ultimately responsible.
“In my view, everything that happens in the City of Barrie – both good and bad – ultimately stops with me. I’m the mayor. But that also means that we wear the bad stuff, but we also get to wear the good stuff every now and again,” said Lehman.
As two of the projects are under the County of Simcoe coffers, County of Simcoe Warden George Cornell sent his congratulations to the Barrie mayor for making the list.
“Having worked with Jeff for the past five years, I know he’s a deserving recipient who thinks outside the box and has played an integral role in advancing the City of Barrie, while supporting broader regional initiatives through his work on County of Simcoe committees,” said Cornell.
“I know Jeff would join me in recognizing our entire county council and county staff as the service providers for the Community Paramedicine program, through County of Simcoe Paramedic Services, and Social Housing programs, including the motel conversion project called Lucy’s Place, which aligns with our broader housing first approach strategy.”
To see the full Fast Company list, click here.