Many of Port Perry’s Mayors are native to our town, and our current Mayor, Tom Rowett is no exception. Born to Jim and Connie at the Port Perry hospital, Tom was the youngest of three sons.
Tom’s roots in this area go back another generation, when Dorothy and Fred Walker, Tom’s grandparents, purchased a cottage in Caesarea. They loved the area so much, they decided to open a bake shop. Walker’s bakery was a success, and people would come from miles around to buy the delicious treats.
After a number of years, Fred and Dot wanted a business on Port Perry’s Queen Street. They opened a hobby shop, which was there for many years. Tom’s parents lived in Caesarea while his dad managed a machine shop and his mom worked at the CIBC in Port Perry. They moved to Blackstock, and Tom’s mother, Connie, worked as the manager of Simpsons Sears on the corner of Queen and John Streets.
When Tom was almost two years old, the family moved to Kent Street, where he was raised.
Most of Tom’s family stayed local. His twin uncles, Harvey and Victor, live in Port Perry where Harvey owned and operated the very successful Green Apple Cabinets. Tom’s Aunt Marjorie lives in Oshawa, and his Uncle Fred has a karate club in Port Perry. Although Tom’s mother moved to Oshawa, she often spends time in North Durham.
Tom went to R.H. Cornish and then to Port Perry High school, excelling in mathematics and computers. His first job, at 14 years of age, was at the Conway Place Restaurant (where Vos’ Independent Grocer is now), as a busboy. He also worked at the Olco gas station (now home of Petrocan), where he pumped gas and look after the station.
At 16, Tom decided he wanted more of an indoor job, and was hired by Jim Grieve at the local IGA (now the home of Foodland). At first, he worked as a stock boy but later moved into the office. It was while working at the IGA that Tom fancied Christine Carter, one of the employees in the deli department.
Christine’s family go back to the early 1800’s in this area and her relatives still live in Blackstock.
Tom attended Wilfred Laurier University, majoring in business and economics. He finished his degree in three years and still worked at the IGA whenever he could. After graduation, he and Christine became an item, and in 1997 the couple were married.
Tom worked full time at the IGA, putting his business skills to use. His brother John was manager of the store, and his other brother Jim, worked there as well. As much as Tom enjoyed the job, he wanted more, and Christine and he decided to begin a tax practice, as a part-time business.
The financial world was something that really appealed to Tom. He studied and received his license as a financial adviser, specializing in holistic financial planning. His business was known as Tom Rowett Financial. Christine also worked in the business, and through hard work the couple did very well.
In 2000 their son Tyler was born, and they built a house in Port Perry. Tom gave up working at the IGA to pursue a career in financial, wealth and estate planning. He moved his business to Water Street and in 2006 changed the name to 1st Financial Centre.
The business, owned by Tom and his partner Karsten Doose, was successful, and by adding the accounting and tax specialty of Anita van Zeeland, it became a well-rounded, Financial Services institution.
Tom, being the entrepreneur that he is, wanted more. In 2012, he and Christine purchased Homestead Furniture from Ralph Ballard.
“We own it as an investment and have absolutely no day to day involvement. The business is thriving on its own and is managed very well,” Tom explained.
As the owner of Homestead he became involved in zoning changes, which were being implemented. “I started going to council meetings to learn more about the bylaws, and got hooked on the political scene,” Tom said, smiling as he spoke.
He obviously liked the idea of owning real estate, because the next year he purchased the Memorial Library building, on Queen Street, and set it up as the offices for his financial services firm.
Tom successfully ran for Mayor in the 2014 election. In his nearly two years as Scugog’s top official, he is enjoying it immensely. “People wondered where I would find the time, but I work long hours, and do everything with the betterment of the town in mind.”
He was the driving force in receiving a nearly two million dollar grant from the Federal Government to improve the Internet infrastructure in Port Perry. “These are the type of services we need to entice businesses to the area,” Tom said. He was also very influential in securing a collective agreement with the Fire Department, being able to avoid arbitration.
“One of my goals is to bring Scugog onto the world platform for Smart Cities. That will enable us to compete on a much larger scale, bringing jobs, industries and positive change,” Tom explained.
On a personal level his interest in entrepreneurship has led him to spend time pursuing his love for inventing better ways of doing things. In fact, several of his ideas, have been turned into successful inventions by other people, so now he spends more time incubating his own concepts.
Water surfing, dirt biking and snowmobiling are hobbies our Mayor enjoys, especially if they are all outdoors. Reading 300 and 400 page agendas, or double that for Regional meetings, takes a lot of his time. His involvement in the Kawartha Conservation Authority, planning and development at a Regional level, sitting on the Transit Committee and being on the Board of the Canadian National Exhibition, pretty much fills his schedule..
Tom is grateful to have a voice and the ability to implement a vision, which will benefit everyone. To quote the new Chamber of Commerce slogan, Tom Rowett is ‘Port Perry Proud’.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, author, columnist and key-note speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.