By: Brian Genest – April, 2021
Can someone explain how Rich Cowan is qualified to serve as chairman of the Dracut Finance Committee? Rich Cowan provided zero answers when I reached out to him about his lack of relevant financial experience. That’s right, I gave Rich Cowan the courtesy he never gives anyone else: I asked him for his side of the story.
Perhaps for the first time ever, Rich Cowan had practically nothing to say. Instead, he dodged the question, saying he was appointed a year ago and that his actions as a member have been recorded in the meeting minutes. Rich Cowan also encouraged me to “learn more about how the committee operates,” which is hilarious, considering I covered the finance committee for the town newspaper about 20 years before he blew into Dracut.
Rich Cowan is probably best known as administrator of a so-called “civic watch” Facebook page, which he typically uses to support his chosen politicians, such as Phil Thibault and Joe Biden, and to advance his progressive left-wing political agenda, such as eliminating the use of fossil fuels. (He comes to Dracut by way of Cambridge.)
Anyway, if you’ve ever seen his page, which seems to generate much less interest in recent years due to the rise of other more popular Dracut-related pages, you know that Rich Cowan writes very long posts about town happenings, politics and other subjects that have nothing to do with civics in many cases, while questioning everyone and everything in the process—except himself.
Rich Cowan often speculates erroneously and distorts the views of others. In just one example, and there are several, he accused the Dracut Republican Town Committee, which supports our police, of wanting to cut the public safety budget because we filed town meeting warrant articles to stop the creation of a new stormwater fee. Rich Cowan has been making those kinds of silly-but-dangerous leaps, assumptions and assertions in online posts for years about many topics.
Recently, in a post about the school budget, he drew criticism when he wrote: “Unless I am missing something, or the superintendent has withheld something from this budget document…” School Committee Chairman Allison Volpe commented, telling him not to assume, speculate or insinuate. “As a member of town finance, you should already be aware that we do not have chargeback numbers included in this budget,” she added.
In another recent post scrutinizing the Dracut Board of Selectmen’s race, he brought up one of the candidate’s LinkedIn profiles and experience. But on Rich Cowan’s LinkedIn page, I couldn’t find relevant financial experience that comes anywhere near ample qualifications to sit on the Finance Committee, never mind being named chairman.
According to LinkedIn, it looks like Rich Cowan was working in IT for a relatively short time, starting about five years after graduating from college, but that was nearly 30 years ago now.
Since 2012, Rich Cowan lists himself as “Stay at Home (sic) Dad and Handyman,” but he doesn’t list any responsibilities, achievements or details, such as whether he even handles the household checkbook. Before that, Rich Cowan lists himself as the “Principal” for several years at a self-named consulting company for unnamed non-profit and corporate clients. In any case, most of his jobs appear to be related to technology and software.
Other than what appears to be some minor fundraising for anonymous non-profits, there’s no mention of any financial-related experience whatsoever in his self-published work history dating back to 1992.
This issue of experience raises a lot of questions:
• Was Rich Cowan interviewed for the position beforehand?
• Were there any other applicants? If so, who were they?
• What process was followed?
• Who thought it was a good idea to make him the chairman? Who voted for that?
• Was there any opposition?
Rich Cowan is a smart guy, that’s without question. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. But general intelligence and specific experience are two very different things.
By the way, do you remember when Rich Cowan was on the Master Planning Committee? He’d probably like you to forget. Rich Cowan was removed from that committee just two months after being appointed in 2017. He refused to comment on that, too, which is understandable when you see the letter that former Town Manager Jim Duggan sent him.
Here’s the lowlights: “Your recent rant on social media relative to Dracut residents and businesses efforts towards ‘Help for Houston’… was tasteless, ill-mannered and insolent. Over the course of multiple days, I have witnessed the awe-inspiring generosity exhibited by the residents and businesses of this community to help the people of Houston, TX.”
“Your disrespectful behavior offends the crux of what volunteerism means to a community and will not be tolerated. Therefore, your services on the Master Planning Committee are no longer required, effective immediately.”
Makes you wonder why Rich Cowan would ever get appointed to a second board, doesn’t it?
Regardless, in a town of 33,000 people, we should be able to find someone with applicable financial expertise to serve in such an important role.
The taxpayers of Dracut should settle for nothing less than our town’s financial decisions being made in an objective manner and being informed by logic and solid experience, not being driven by feelings, politics or anything else.
Dracut deserves a Finance Committee chairman with relevant financial experience
— Brian Genest is chairman of the Dracut Republican Town Committee and a member of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee representing the Second Essex and Middlesex district of Andover, Dracut, Lawrence and Tewksbury.