Retired Downingtown Police Chief James R. McGowan III, who died Monday, is remembered for sharing advice and sincerely caring for those he served in the community and those who worked alongside him.
Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell was 25 when he was elected into office as the youngest mayor and he worked with McGowan, who came with decades of experience as a police officer. They began a routine of having conversations over lunch at a borough restaurant. Such discussions led to more school resource officers to work with teenagers, increased training for officers to deal with domestic violence, and bike patrols.
“It became very clear that I was in a very good position to have one of the best public servants in Chester County as our police chief and we became very good friends,” Maxwell said. “He immediately became someone I respected, loved and enjoyed talking with, not just about the Downingtown Police Department, but about life and public service.”
McGowan served in many roles in more than 40 years during his public safety career that includes Downingtown Borough Police Chief, Downingtown Fire Department Chief and most recently as EMS Chairman of Minquas EMS. He retired as police chief in December 2015. During his career he also served as the president of the Chester County Police Chief’s Association, was a two-time Downingtown Fire Chief and Rotary Club member.
“Jim is well known and has not only been the foundation of public safety in the Downingtown area, he has been instrumental on a county, state and federal level as well,” Downingtown Police Chief Howard Holland said in a statement announcing the news of McGowan’s passing on Monday morning at home.
“Chief McGowan was a patriarch in Downingtown and throughout Chester County, a mentor to me and hundreds, if not thousands, more in public service,” Maxwell said. “His life was the unequivocal definition of a life serving the public.”
Maxwell said that McGowan was an exceptional leader who had a personal side as someone who liked helping others that made him successful in his police work. He added that McGowan was great for giving advice and sharing his expertise.
“He was good at solving problems, not just from a law enforcement standpoint, and he would try to get to the root of the problem and solve it,” Maxwell said. “He would not only try to make the community safer and better, but make people better folks as well.”
He enjoyed conversing with people to discover how he could help, and he did it sincerely, Maxwell added.
“He was the kind of police chief who wanted to know the people he was helping. He wanted to sit down and talk to families about problems at home or in school,” said Maxwell, adding that McGowan also worked closely with school leaders to help resolve any matters.
Patricia McGlone said in her twofold position as a member of the Downingtown Borough Council and Public Information Officer for the Downingtown Area School District, she had the privilege of working with McGowan on many occasions.
“The DASD Administrative Team knew that we could count on his sage advice and knowledge in multiple areas and he always welcomed our calls. We also knew him as a proud and involved parent,” McGlone said. “As a member of council, I was always pleased to see Jim at every council meeting because he knew just about everything there was to know about Downingtown. Jim’s passing is a great loss to his family, his Downingtown community and DASD.”
Lawrence Mussoline, retired schools superintendent of the Downingtown Area School District, appreciated how sincere McGowan acted toward school officials and students.
“I viewed Chief McGowan as a law enforcement icon not only in Downingtown but in Chester County. His sincere care and concern for the safety and security of all of us in his hometown of Downingtown was why he came to work every day,” Mussoline said. “To me, as a school leader, I couldn’t ask for a better municipal partner than Jim. I was very lucky to know and work with him.”
We honor you, James McGowan.