Let’s Start With Lunch

When I first got to know Jim McGowan, also known as Chief McGowan the 40-year veteran of the Downingtown Police Department, we were just about to have our first meeting as Police Chief and Mayor.

I wanted to go over an agenda that focused on community policing programs, bike patrols and department certifications.

(I had been Mayor for exactly one week, which I felt made me qualified to make such important demands.)

Chief McGowan responded, as if he had been in this situation a few times, “Sounds good, and how about we start with lunch?”

Over the next few years we would get together about once a month over the best sandwiches, salads and diner food that Downingtown had to offer.

We discussed important issues facing our community. We talked in length about heroin addiction, domestic violence, mental health problems and many, many other issues that members of our community were having to deal with.

Soon, it occurred to me that our perspectives were quite different. Chief McGowan had worked decades of overnight shifts and spent holidays away from his family to help other families deal with unimaginable tragedies. He had seen things that I would never understand.

I began to look forward to our conversations and often sought out topics that would allow me to garner the most from his intelligence and experience.

Reflecting back, I can proudly say that our talks led to more school resource officers to work with our teens, increased training for officers to deal with domestic violence, and bike patrols to catch criminals in parks and alleys.

After 40 years as a police officer in Downingtown, Chief McGowan is finally retiring.

As a way to say good-bye, I asked the principals of East Ward Elementary School and Beaver Creek Elementary School to help me with a surprise.

I knew Chief McGowan would be leading the Christmas Parade in his car as he always does to make sure the route was clear. This would be his final event as Chief.

Three friends helped me hand out 150 special signs made by students of two of our elementary schools. We lined the streets and the Chief made his farewell ride.

“That was the second time in my life I had ever been surprised,” he later told me.

I stopped in his office last week as I normally would to say hello, he had already started cleaning it out.

Earlier this week, as if my phone had a mind of its own (it might), I accidentally called my friend, realizing it quickly, I attempted to hang up before his phone rang.

Chief McGowan called back right away,

“Mayor, what’s up? Is everything all right?”

I replied, “Yes, just called you by accident, I hope you are enjoying your retirement. You deserve it.”

“I am, but you know you can call me with anything, I will always be here to help.” he said.

I replied, “Sounds good, and how about we start with lunch?”

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