Sowle of the City


Photo by Hannah Perry

Sowle is currently the Energy Specialist at the high school. He can often be seen walking through the halls.

Harper McNamara, Staff Writer

 When I met Thom Sowle, he was eager to show me the contents of a regular looking stack of papers on his desk.

  “I got something from a teacher at Willow Ridge. She had her students write letters to the mayor,” he told me. He chuckled as he showed me his favorite letters with a sense of pride. When Sowle is in the room, he seems to radiate calmness. His voice is slow and cool and easy to listen to.

  “This is why I do all this stuff. This is why I was a Soccer coach, a baseball coach, I served on the school board. This is my community. I just want to give back.” 

  This becomes obvious when one sees exactly how much Sowle has served the community. He was on city council for about 6 years and has been the energy specialist for the school district for over 30 years.

  After the resignation of Kalmin Smith in 2018, Sowle was chosen to replace the mayor of 11 years. And since the beginning of Sowle’s one year term, Grand Ledge has seen a significant uptick in amenities, including a new splash pad and performance shelter.

  When I asked Sowle what we could expect in his coming term, he told me that one of his primary goals in the coming years was to work on the infrastructure in the city.

  “This is a very old town and some of the infrastructure is just that old. It’s not all as pretty as performance shelters and splash pads. There’s stuff that needs to be done.” But he was also sure to make it clear that we would see the “pretty” stuff too.

  “We want to make the infrastructure better but we also want to make the city a better place to be. We want to finish up our wide sidewalks and we’ve bought some vacant land to extend the parks and the river walk,” he explained enthusiastically. “We have in the works a butterfly garden. We want to plant some things to bring the monarchs through.”

This is my community. I just want to give back.

— Sowle


  However, Sowle still has his critics. Some believe he has made questionable decisions during his term as mayor. For example, Sowle played a part in the decision to ban recreational marijuana dispensaries in Grand Ledge.

  “I can respect Sowle’s intention. But this isn’t a priority our local government should be focusing on. I think this limits people’s individual and financial freedoms. There are far more important issues such as our city’s water quality for example,” said Grand Ledge junior, Jasper Nolan.

  But Sowle is certain of his decision making. When I asked him, he very clearly stated his position.

  “I was very adamant about that. I don’t think our downtown area would benefit from marijuana dispensaries. I think it would take away from the old town charm that we have here and those dispensaries will be available in Lansing.”

  Still, Sowle has support from a majority of the Grand Ledge community, winning the election by over 51 percent of votes. And it is likely that Sowle’s support will continue into the future generation, given the impact he has on Grand Ledge High School students.

  “I have started soliciting student representatives for some of our committees. We have one that sits on our parks and rec committee now. We have a couple of students who work at city hall for the chamber of commerce. We have a number of openings on various boards. I would love to see input from the students,” Sowle told me. It’s clear that he works to be conscious of students involvement in the Grand Ledge Community.

  “The city clerk and I work to try and get those students who turn 18 registered to vote. You are a very large part of this city. You will be the next voters in Grand Ledge,” he said. “You will effect change. We need you to be involved with it so you know how things work and so that you’ll be ready to take the reins.”