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Sault-born Chris Lewis visits hometown to inspire leaders from all walks of life

The former OPP top cop writes first book, shares stories of personal hills and valleys
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20171028-Former OPP Commissioner and Sault native Chris Lewis photo supplied
Chris Lewis, Sault Ste. Marie native and former OPP Commissioner. Photo supplied

Chris Lewis, born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, visited his hometown Thursday to speak to and inspire a group of leadership figures gathered at The Water Tower Inn.

Those at the well-attended event snapped up copies of his book entitled Never Stop on a Hill.

“It’s really not meant to be an autobiography but because it’s about leadership, I tell stories about how I molded my own leadership style, from high school right through to sailing the Great Lakes on ships to joining the OPP, so I tell some stories from my career but it’s not all about my career,” Lewis told SooToday.

“The stories in it are all to exemplify my point, about leadership.”

Lewis, 60, joined the OPP in 1978. 

He rose through the ranks and became OPP Commissioner in 2010.

He retired from policing in March 2014, and currently works as a public safety analyst for CTV and other Bell Media-owned outlets.

Though many people in Thursday’s audience were police officers, some of whom are involved with Algoma Women in Law Enforcement (AWIL), Lewis said the book and his speech were aimed at bringing out the leader in all occupations.

“Leadership is leadership.”

“It’s about inspiring people to be their best in whatever they do,” Lewis said.

Never Stop on a Hill describes life as a series of hills and valleys, promoting determination and resilience.

Lewis has had his own share of hills and valleys, both professional and personal.

“There was the loss of my brother (in an industrial accident in 1980), the loss of my mother to Alzheimer’s and my own health challenge I had in 2000, when I had a brain tumour and had brain surgery, not knowing if I was going to get back to work, so that was a real lesson for me in terms of staying strong and resilient and getting ‘over that hill.’”

From that health ordeal, Lewis went on to serve as OPP Commissioner from 2010 to 2014.

“I’m a high school grad from Sault Ste. Marie. There’ll never be a Commissioner again in the history of the OPP who’s a high school grad and not a university grad.”

“I took a year off after Grade 13, I went to Sault Collegiate Institute, planned on going to university but I got working and I was making so much money I thought ‘I’ll do it later',” Lewis recalled with a grin.

“I took courses and got close to having a degree but never finished it because I was too busy in terms of doing my thing in policing.”

Never Stop on a Hill is Lewis’ first book, but he said, “I’ve always been a writer. When I was 18, I started writing a novel but I just never got around to continuing it, I’ve written articles and sometimes I’ve just written thoughts and ideas, so I decided years ago I’d write a book on leadership because I felt so strongly many organizations were hurting from a lack of leadership.”

“If there isn’t strong leadership, morale suffers.”

All proceeds from sales of Never Stop on a Hill go to Special Olympics Ontario, a group which Lewis has long been associated with, as his brother Rob is a Special Olympian.

Chris has taken part in Torch Runs and currently sits on the group’s provincial board of directors.

As a public safety analyst for Bell Media, Lewis has often appeared on television providing analysis on such incidents as Tuesday’s terror attack in New York, which left eight people dead and several others wounded.

“I think in the U.S., they need tighter gun laws, and we’re not in bad shape in Canada, but anybody can get a car and drive on to the sidewalk (and take people’s lives). How do you stop that?”

“I don’t think it’s related to immigration. There are homegrown Americans shooting and killing people all the time. It’s a sad reality,” Lewis said, emphasizing more people are killed every day by impaired or distracted drivers than through terror attacks. 

However, Lewis said “I think every time one of these things happen, and I think this is key, somebody like family, friends, coworkers or neighbours say ‘we knew something was wrong but we didn’t say anything.’ If they’d speak up, an individual might get on the police radar and that might save lives.”

For Lewis, the Sault will always be home.

“It’ll always be my happy place.”

“Years ago Morley Torgov wrote about Sault Ste. Marie in A Good Place to Come From. My grandmother had that book and when she died it was the only one of her belongings I took, I read it cover to cover and I’ve always described Sault Ste. Marie as being just that, a great place to come from and a great place to grow up.”

Lewis, who now resides in Midland, Ont. and whose wife serves as Chief Superintendent at OPP headquarters in Orillia, said “I still like walking to the grocery store and seeing people I know, and the Sault always gives me that to this day.”