Women of Note

Shaped by her love for people and the environment, Lori Cowan serves the community

by Mary Jo David

Those who love nature, the environment, and animals have a friend in Lori Cowan, who, along with her husband, Bill, has lived and loved Unadilla Township for close to 28 years. Cowan is serving her fifth term as a trustee on the Unadilla Township Board, and during that time, she has worked hard to secure the funds for local parks projects, cleanup days, tree planting, and recycling efforts.

The Unadilla Township Hall Playground and the Unadilla Township Community Park have new playscapes thanks, in large part, to Cowan’s efforts. In addition, she was instrumental in pulling together the resources to add a walking path, a gazebo, and solar lights to the township’s Community Park.

“I love participating on the Recreation Plan Steering Committee for Unadilla,” Cowan said. “The park improvements are a big plus to the township. Take the Community Park, for example. It was an old, dilapidated park with a baseball diamond that was falling down. Thanks to some grant money and help from organizations like the Boy Scouts, we’ve managed to completely refurbish it.”

Jo Mayer, chair of Stockbridge Area Wellness Coalition (SAWC) and Stockbridge Community Outreach, is quite familiar with Cowan’s achievements. “The quote about how ‘a small group of people can make a big difference’ certainly applies to Lori. She has helped bring in grants to improve the Lakeland Trails trailhead in Gregory, not to mention the improvements of the Unadilla playground and the Unadilla Township park,” Mayer said.

Cowan gained broader name recognition in 2022 when she ran for Livingston County commissioner representing District 3 in last fall’s local election. Although she didn’t win the election, she benefited from meeting many different people in the county through her canvassing efforts.

“Unadilla had its biggest turnout ever in that election,” she says with pride. “Many of the folks in Unadilla already knew me, so we concentrated on going door-to-door around Pinckney, Fowlerville, and some of Hamburg.”

Together with a team of volunteers whom she will be forever grateful to, Cowan knocked on about 1,500 doors.

“I talked to and met so many wonderful people, and it was interesting to learn that I had something in common with so many—even those who weren’t going to vote for me.”

Cowan was raised to be naturally interested and open to learning about others.

“My mom and dad taught me to love and respect everyone and to welcome everyone into our clan,” she shared with a smile. Her dad was a professor at the University of Michigan, and Cowan recalled that, at Thanksgiving, “Students from all over the world came to our house because they couldn’t go home for the holiday. That’s what shaped me.”

Hands down, the person Cowan most admires is her husband Bill, whom she says is her soulmate. They met in high school shooting spitballs at each other, later went off to California separately, returned around the same time, and met up again in Ann Arbor when she ran into him while he was working at TJ Maxx. A romantic page from him when she was leaving the store (“Lori, come back, I need your phone number”) has resulted in 40 years together!

Running for the township trustee position five times, and winning, is quite an achievement. But winning the first time still resonates as her most outstanding professional achievement. That is also when she met Judy Williams, who was the township supervisor at the time. Cowan lists Williams as one of those who has inspired her over the years.

“Judy helped welcome me to my new role and supported me with answers to my questions and more. She’s a special person and a great person to know,” she said.

As trustee, she’s in a position to know about Unadilla’s and Gregory’s greatest assets, and she considers those to be, “Nature. We are so lucky to have the trails, the wildlife, and the lakes around us.”

When she’s not performing her duties as trustee or working as an assistant manager at the Earle Restaurant in Ann Arbor, you can often find Cowan walking the Lakeland Trail with Keebler, her 16-year-old, part Aussie shepherd/part blue heeler pup.

Diane Constable has worked for years with Cowan on the Unadilla Township Park Committee.

“She is an ardent proponent of land and nature,” Constable said and added, “Lori is kind-hearted and a willing listener to everyone she meets. Her friends, family, the people in her township , and especially her dog are close to her heart.”

Jo Mayer also weighed in on what it means to know Cowan.

“Lori is a light in the world. She lightens the mood, lightens the load, and lightens each day with her dedication to improving the lives of those in her community.”

Clearly, to know Lori Cowan is to love her, and if you don’t know her, you’ll probably want to!

According to Jo Mayer, chair of SAWC and Stockbridge Community Outreach, “Lori is a light in the world…with her dedication to improving the lives of those in her community.”
Photo from livcodems.com

Beginning with spitballs in high school, Lori Cowan and her husband (and soulmate) Bill were meant for each other. Photo provided by Lori Cowan.

Cowan’s passion is her “old dog Keebler,” a 16-year-old Aussie shepherd and blue heeler mix. Photo from Facebook.

Cowan was instrumental in refurbishing Unadilla Township Community Park, which now includes a gazebo, playscape, and walking path. Photo from Unadilla Twp. Parks & Recreation Master Plan.

Cowan at her polling place in the November 2022 election when she was on the ballot for County Commissioner, District 3. Photo from Facebook.

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