Many elected officials claim they aren't really politicians, but former Whitfield County Board of Commissioners member Mike Cowan really wasn't, said former board chairman Mike Babb.
"As far as I can recall, he never put up a sign or took out an ad," Babb said. "He ran on his record."
Cowan, who represented District 1 on the board from 1997 to 2010, passed away Saturday. He was 65.
Babb and Cowan joined the board the same year.
"We came in with the idea of getting water in the (unincorporated parts of) the county," Babb recalled. "The entire board wanted that, and Mike was a significant factor in getting water in the county. He attended all the meetings with the different water providers. We knew we wanted Dalton Utilities to do it. But we were prepared to do it even if they couldn't, so we met with all of the surrounding providers."
Cowan was born in Oklahoma and moved to Whitfield County when he was 5. He went through the county school system, graduating from Westside High School, and served in the U.S. Army. He was first elected as a commissioner in 1996 to fill an unexpired term, beginning service on the board in 1997, then was reelected three times to serve full four-year terms. He left the Board of Commissioners in 2010 because of term limits. State law does not allow a Whitfield County commissioner to serve more than three consecutive four-year terms.
Cowan founded and ran two companies, C&C Crane and Magna-Weld.
During his time on the Board of Commissioners, Cowan was recognized by Georgia Trend magazine as one of the state’s “Most Influential People.” He received the National Association of Counties’ 2007 County Courthouse Award for “outstanding governance and strong leadership.” He was the first district representative for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, and was the vice chairman of the court subcommittee for the National Association of Counties’ Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee.
"He was a good man and a good commissioner," said current Commissioner Greg Jones. "When I first joined the board (in 2007) Mike really helped me out, helping me learn about the commission and the county."
Cowan was in a severe motorcycle wreck after stepping down from the commission in 2011, suffering head trauma and internal injuries. He spent months at Erlanger hospital and the Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation, both in Chattanooga.
He recovered and mounted an unsuccessful run for his former seat on the commission in 2018.
"Mike really cared about the county and wanted what was best for it," said Jones.
The family will receive friends at Ponders Melrose Chapel on Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and after 10 a.m. on Friday until funeral services at 1 p.m. Masks will be required, and social distancing must be observed.