BONAVISTA, NL — Born in western Newfoundland, John Norman considers himself very lucky to have landed in Bonavista, adopted by a family that later settled in the historic community.
“Growing up here, I felt like I lived in the community, and I feel and feel now that the community is a very interesting study in rural economic development and success,” said Norman, the city’s mayor since 2017. “There are a lot of interesting activities going on in the community and I am someone who likes to be very involved and engaged in positive things. There seems to be a lot going on here. This is the right place for me right now.
Norman is right on the money when it comes to economic development in the town of just under 3,200 people. Known as a destination for tourists visiting the Bonavista Peninsula, the community has received much attention for its small businesses and well-maintained historic buildings, many of which have ties to the businesses Norman is responsible for.
“Growing up here, I felt like I lived in the community, and I felt and feel now that the community is a very interesting study in rural economic development and success.”
— John Norman
Bonavista Creative is committed to the continued revitalization of the community’s commercial hub, encouraging entrepreneurship and providing spaces for businesses, artisans, artists and others. Bonavista Living has focused on saving historic homes, having acquired and restored dozens of them. Bonavista Creative Workshop has participated in these restorations and undertaken projects elsewhere in the province, specializing in heritage woodwork.
“We had two employees, me and one other, on the payroll eight years ago, and now we have over 50. That’s grown significantly. It’s become sustainable in recent years. And there’s still a lot But we “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done between the buildings we currently own, as well as the buildings we’ve restored and sold. It’s over 100 now,” he said.
According to Norman, Bonavista has more than 1,000 built heritage items in the community. He estimates that less than a quarter of these sites have been dealt with either by local owners or by his own companies.
Bonavista’s approach to stimulating rural economic development through a community’s built heritage has been touted across the province as a model that can be learned from and replicated.
Prior to getting involved in local rural economic development in 2014, Norman could see positive things happening in Bonavista. But he also felt there was a lot of untapped potential in the community.
“I always thought Bonavista had a lot more potential than it was actually tapping into, and like most rural areas, it needed energy, investment, a population strategy, etc.” , did he declare. “I’ve watched Bonavista grow up here, from my middle and high school days, come home the summers of my college days, and see that there’s something interesting happening in the nonprofit sector. lucrative, some small start-ups. Something was happening, and the culmination of those somethings turned into a really positive direction for the community. And I wanted to be a part of that.
1 . What is your full name?
John William Lance Norman.
2 . Where were you born?
3 . Where do you live today?
4 . Who do you follow on social media?
Nobody (laughs). I don’t have a personal social media account. I have a business account and a political account and my assistants manage both. Honestly, I don’t even know how to connect to it. I’m definitely the exception when it comes to millennials.
5 . What would people be surprised to learn about you?
For many years I was a figure skater, then for seven years after that I coached figure skating and rebuilt the figure skating club in Bonavista…
I was a child, a young student, who suffered from learning difficulties and exceptions and needed a lot of support. Early in my school career…before 6th grade, I was told more than once that I would be lucky to finish high school and that college would never be for me. Well, I’ve done a few degrees since and gotten a few honors, so I’ve exceeded those expectations.
6 . What was your favorite year and why?
My favorite year would be 2019. That’s for two reasons. It was the year I met my partner Guillaume (Lallier). And that’s the same year that I was able to officially stabilize Bonavista Living and Bonavista Creative.
seven . What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
The hardest thing I’ve done in recent memory would be changing my mind last fall, after announcing I was retiring from municipal politics, and again in the 11th hour of my run for mayor.
8 . Can you describe an experience that changed your life?
Before I was a year old… I was adopted into a family that moved to Bonavista, and they were able to provide me with a lot of benefits to support me in my studies, help me start my business and buy my first Properties. All sorts of other things. And I guess none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been adopted by this family that moved to Bonavista.
9 . What is your greatest delicacy?
I think my biggest indulgence in monetary value would be art. I am an absolutely passionate art collector.
ten . What is your favorite movie or book?
I don’t watch a lot of movies. And books, I mostly read academic papers, which most (people) wouldn’t know about. My indulgence in this area would be Netflix, and I just finished watching “Ozarks”, which I found to be very good.
11 . What do you like to listen to?
I listen to everything. I grew up in a family that was very fond of music and the arts. They even had a music room in the house with amplifiers, guitars, pianos and anything else you might need. And as a result, I love everything from country music to Louisiana Cajun music. I was at the Atlantic String Quartet (concert) in Bonavista two nights ago. I love classic and everything in between.
12 . How do you like to relax?
Relax? You must have a definition of the word [laughs]. I would say that my relaxation is seasonal. My summer relaxation, I am in my garden. My winter relaxation, I skate.
13 . What is your favorite place in the world?
Well, that’s easy — Bonavista.
14 . What is your biggest fear?
I would say let the community down. Not fulfilling the goals I have set for myself, neither for the city nor for my businesses. Everything I’m involved in, I like to see it through to the end.
15 . How would you describe your personal fashion sense?
Eclectic. I would say I’m one of the few Newfoundlanders to have been to New York Fashion Week. I have everything from Alexander McQueen jackets with raven feather embellishments and shoes that Karl Lagerfeld had signed before he died, to Calvin Klein t-shirts with jeans and my Dickies plaid jacket from Riffs. So it’s a very eclectic mix, depending on the context in which I find myself.
16 . What is your most valuable asset?
My most prized possession would be my art collection. I would say that one of the most important (pieces) for me would be one of my Maud Lewis paintings, which was a Canada Post federal stamp a few years ago.
17 . What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
I would say generosity. My dad (Jabez) was an almost overly generous individual and it seems like I absorbed him as well. If I have something – money, an object, something someone needs – I tend to give it away.
(My dad) was a doctor who would show up at a patient’s house with groceries, give him turkeys for Christmas because he was going through financial difficulties, and a lot of other things. Some were known to me growing up but it only became very apparent at his funeral when people started coming out of the woodwork saying he did this and he gave me this and he gave me this gave that and he did that for us – even more generous than we realized.
18 . What do you think is your best quality and what is your worst quality?
My best quality would be my compassion. My compassion for people and animals.
My worst quality – as pointed out by many people who met me and many Bonavista voters. I have no reason for it, but I just have a habit of not smiling and apparently that sometimes makes me unapproachable. But I have no reason not to smile… it’s my face and unless I have surgery I can’t change it (laughs).
I just look serious. And it’s hard when you’re trying to be likeable and elected and all the other aspects of life. It’s nice to look friendly.
19 . What is your biggest regret?
I generally regret very little because I don’t see the point of regretting decisions that have been made… Things always tend to work out one way or another. I tend not to regret many of my decisions.
20 . Who are the three people who would join you for the dinner party of your dreams?
Lord Jacob Rothschild, internationally renowned banker, aristocrat, art collector and philanthropist. I would say Hillary Clinton. And we will bring Karl Lagerfeld back from the dead.