Colonel Michael Bowersox: Firm, Fair and Passionate Leadership

by Lisa Moody Breslin photography by Kelly Heck

March marks Col. Michael Bowersox’s one-year anniversary as the manager for Hanover Borough. His family’s 100-year history in the area and his impressive 30 years in the Marine Corps contribute to his leadership style, which has been described as firm, fair and passionate. To relax, Bowersox enjoys time with his family, sitting on his front porch and listening to music. A self-proclaimed non-singer, he also enjoys karaoke.

What are a few tidbits about your family’s 100-year history in the area? My great-grandfather was a veterinarian here in town and lived on East Middle Street. My grandparents lived on Fulton Street for a while before moving to the Spring Grove area. Growing up I could never keep track of all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in Hanover or the Hanover area. Let’s just say if you’ve lived here a long time, you’ve probably encountered a Bowersox or two.

 As a youth, what was your answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s an easy one … major league baseball player.

List two volunteer and/or government roles in the Hanover area that best prepared you for this role. I spent a little over 30 years in the United States Marine Corps, so I really didn’t experience anything in this area that prepared me for this job. But my Marine Corps experience has proved invaluable in fulfilling my duties at the Borough.

Any chance that you find yourself thinking, “Thank goodness I took that class, or did that specific job, when I was younger. I can handle this borough-related situation as a result.” Not really, but I’ve always been grateful to my high school English teacher. She really emphasized writing skills and was tough. Being a good writer paid huge dividends during my career.

Your goal to ensure that a broad range of recreational sports is accessible and affordable to more youths is admirable. Why is that goal important to you? I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to provide low-cost or free opportunities for kids to participate in healthy activities that strengthen the community, re-establish neighborhood identities, and foster pride in our Borough. Youth sports have become too specialized, too competitive, and way too expensive. I want parents to have options for their kids that aren’t cost-prohibitive. Our recreation program is virtually non-existent, so we’re working hard to establish programs and give all of our parks a much-needed facelift.

List three adjectives that you think capture the qualities of an effective leader. Three isn’t enough if you want to be an effective leader, but I’ll go with Integrity … wait, that’s a noun. Whatever the adjective form of integrity is, that’s definitely one. Collaborative. Humble.

How would you describe your leadership style? How would your colleagues describe your leadership style? I’d like to think that I am very approachable. I try to ensure all of our employees know they have a voice in the process and that their opinions matter. Colleagues probably describe me as a positive, “glass is always half-full” leader. I never have a bad day.

List two of the biggest challenges you have faced already as the borough manager. Figuring out the best way to communicate with the public has been very challenging. It would be much easier if more residents attended public meetings, but they don’t. The other piece to that is shifting the paradigm that we’re the bad guys. I work very hard to be as transparent as possible. As a result, I spend a great deal of time personally responding to residents’ complaints.

Your history with the military is rich. Briefly describe a few highlights. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to over 20 countries around the world during my career … some good, some bad. It was an honor serving with such amazing Marines… tough, smart, dedicated and professional men and women whose selfless service to our nation was truly inspirational. I miss it every day.

Effective leaders who have inspired you? Unlikely leaders who have inspired you? I’ve generally taken my leadership lessons from bad leaders that I’ve observed … sort of a “don’t ever do what he does” mentality. I get my inspiration from the rank-and-file employees that show up every day, work hard, and take pride in what they do. I just try not to get in their way.

Favorite authors or musicians? I’m basically a classic rocker, but I also enjoy classic country music. I only read non-fiction with a focus on military history. My favorite book is Undaunted Courage.

Family details you feel comfortable sharing? I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 35 years. I have two daughters, and I’m having a blast helping to raise my 8-year-old grandson, who lives with me and attends school in the Hanover Public School District.

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Author: HM

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