A common thread among many of this year’s “Faces of Newton County” honorees is a desire to serve. That is especially true for new District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan.
A native of Rockdale County, Cowan was elected in November of 2016 and sworn in this past January. His path to elected office took him from being a cop on the streets to downtown Atlanta for college and law school at Georgia State University, all while spending 36 years with the City of Covington.
Cowan said so far, his time on the commission has been what he expected.
“We knew going in from the election there were some problems-dealing with the solid waste authority, the landfill, issues with the reservoir, obviously, the county finances, the county turnover of people,” he said.
“I’ve not run across anything I wasn’t expecting- no surprises yet.”
The commissioner said his work as chairman of the county’s form of government committee was an impetus for him to run.
“I got appointed to the form of government committee, researched and worked with that,” he said. “We presented a good option for the county that was adopted by the General Assembly.
“Really, my main goal was to make sure that it got built on the right foundation, that it didn’t fall apart after the first year. It is a change for the Board of Commissioners to go to a county manager form of government. I want to see it successful.”
Cowan worked for the City of Covington for 36 years, spending 26 as the HR Director. He started his career as a police officer in 1979. In 1982, he was promoted to lieutenant and became a shift supervisor. He was the first accreditation manager for the Covington Police Department (CPD). In 1985, CPD became the first police department in Georgia and the tenth in the nation to be accredited.
After graduating from the Georgia State University Law School in 1993 and passing the bar exam, he continued to work for the city.
“I was working for a super great city manager, Frank Turner,” Cowan said. “I felt like there was a lot I could contribute. From an HR perspective, you touch a lot of different of areas of law.”
After retiring from the City of Covington, Cowan went into private law practice, practicing real estate law.
“I’ve done my share of adversarial work,” he said. “I really like to be a peacemaker and usually in real estate, everybody walks away happy.”
Cowan said his grandchildren are his hobby. He likes working on and fixing up old cars. He also said that his is a split household between Georgia, where his daughter graduated as a pharmacist and Georgia Tech, where his son graduated as a chemical engineer.
Describing the new BOC, Cowan said,” I think we are all people who love Newton County. We felt like the county, for whatever reason, has struggled financially and managerially. We felt like we had something to contribute, something in our experience that may help get it on the right course.”
“I have no desire to be a long-term politician,” he said. “But I do know how to fix things.”