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Monday February 6th 2023

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That's what she said

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Macon Cowles, Lawyer, Candidate and Environmental Advocate


This is the first in a series of candidate profiles written by students in Instructor Jeff Browne’s CU News Corps course at CU-Boulder. Lars Gesing is a graduate student from Hamburg, Germany, where he worked for several print and online publications, including the daily regional newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt.


Macon Cowles’ t-shirt carries a simple message: “Save the earth.”

“If you want to ruin the planet, you don’t have to do anything. We already have the perfect business model for that,” says Cowles. He is seeking yet another reelection after six years on the Boulder City Council.

The re-running candidate is passionate about banishing the demons of climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 is the essence of what Cowles preaches on this fall‘s campaign trail. “The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is the electricity that we use. That is why forming a municipal utility is so terribly important.”

For most of his time as an active City Council member, Cowles has been on the forefront of proponents in the heated electrical municipalization debate. “On the first day that this utility starts operating, we can drop our emissions by half and increase the share of energy we get from renewable resources from under 20 to over 50 percent.”

Leslie Glustrom, co-founder of the non-profit group Clean Energy Action, supports Cowles’ push in favor of a municipal utility: “It is not until we address the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions—which is Xcel’s current electric generation mix—that we can even think about meeting the Kyoto Protocol and reducing our carbon emissions on a scale that begins to match the scale of the climate crisis.”

Cowles’ wife Regina, an Italian from the Bronx, doesn’t leave Macon’s side these days. Her support is not exclusively tied to marital obligations. Regina, a political consultant, also manages her husband’s campaign.

What makes the candidate Macon Cowles a good husband, then? Regina bursts with laughter. “I think every woman in Boulder should know that Macon makes great pies. And he cleans the floors.”

Switching back from being a grateful wife to being a campaign manager in reelection mode, she adds: “He deserves another term because of his experience as a City Council member and a lawyer, representing people who are in trouble.”

Lawyer Mark Harris has worked with Cowles on many legal cases. “In all the years, never once have I seen him switch to the negative when things go awry with a strategy or plan.”

Macon Cowles—the son of a former congregational minister and a social activist—and then-disc-jockey Regina met in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1980. Three years later, the couple moved to Boulder, and ultimately to the Whittier neighborhood, where they own a house.

“This house was built in 1847, but we completely rebuilt it over the course of the last year.  It now qualifies for the highest level of energy efficiency,” says Cowles. He mentions this fact for good reason: “Fighting climate change is not just about how we generate electricity, but also about how we build our houses and what materials we use.”

Toto (from Facebook)

Toto—the family’s Terrier dog—rests his head on Cowles’ knee. “He abides by the open space rules,” Regina Cowles says, jokingly. The couple loves to recreate on hikes or during camping trips—especially in the winter, when the two of them and Toto board their Volkswagen Eurovan and travel south.

For now, no such trips are scheduled though. Macon Cowles wants to win (another) reelection.

Whittier, he proudly proclaims, serves as a “textbook example” for a 15-minute-neighborhood, a neighborhood “where people can reach everything they need within a 15-minute-walk.”

Former City Council member Steve Pomerance dismisses the idea of this type of neighborhood as “stupid.” He says there was a simple reason why the approach wouldn’t keep citizens out of their cars: “People don’t work where they live.”

Jonathan Dings, one of Cowles’ contenders in this fall’s election, is also among those who argue against a prioritization of the 15-minute-neighborhood on the campaign agenda. “The way I see it, things are evolving in the developed areas. The major changes should happen on land that is underdeveloped.”

Crystal Gray—another former City Council member—backs Cowles’ stance: “The goal of a 15-minute-neighborhood is not only good for reducing carbon emissions. It also builds the community when you connect with neighbors and local businesses along your walk.”

Customizing people to walk, bike or use public transportation propels the policies of the enthusiastic cyclist Macon Cowles. The retired lawyer is one of Mother Nature’s most passionate and profound advocates.

Because ultimately, his message is as simple as this: Save the earth.

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