Honoring a Dedicated Volunteer

Honoring a Dedicated Volunteer

Springfield-area man to be recognized for 40 years of volunteer service with Consumer Protection Commission.

Jane Fowler finally has her husband back, after sharing him with Fairfax County for 41 years.

Her husband, Lawrence Fowler, has spent that time serving with the county's Consumer Protection Commission, studying laws and helping draft regulations that keep the residents of the county safe from unfair service fees on taxis and cable service, among other things.

"After how many years now, I finally get him back," Jane Fowler said, sitting next to him on a couch in their Alexandria home. "I think he's done his part."

Lawrence Fowler resigned from the Consumer Protection Commission in December after being diagnosed with colon cancer. He decided he needed to step down after 41 years of service, to take care of himself and spend more time with his wife of 60 years.

"I've been pretty lucky," he said. "I'm very happy with the job I did. I liked working with the county to protect the people who live here."

Lawrence Fowler smiled at his wife, adding that he was lucky to have a wife that supported him coming home late at night from meetings.

"We've proud of each other," he said. "She let me have a good tenure on the board. She's supported me through the years."

Jane Fowler isn't the only one who recognizes the work her husband has provided on a volunteer basis. During a Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, Jan. 9, Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) submitted a motion to create the Lawrence V. Fowler Memorial Award for Distinguished Service.

"Anyone who volunteers for a commission in Fairfax County for that long ought not only to be recognized and given a medal but crowned king of all volunteers," Hyland said. "To recognize him is the least we can do. We do not have a distinguished award for service on a commission, so we want to get this available."

Fowler has spent most of his life living and working in the Lee District, and that district's supervisor echoes Hyland's praise.

"For a long time, he's been a point person from the Lee District," said Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee). "Larry has been through every change of consumer law, fighting for people who have been duped by contractors. Everything we have today as far as consumer protection in Fairfax County has his fingerprints on it," he said.

Kauffman and Hyland will honor Fowler as the first recipient of the award that will bear his name during the Jan. 23 Board of Supervisors meeting.

AFTER GROWING up in Washington, D.C., Fowler moved to Virginia in 1955. He had served in the Navy during World War II, stationed in the Aleutian Islands near the Arctic Circle. Although never a lawyer, Fowler said he's worked with them enough to be able to understand many of the procedures he's dealt with on the Consumer Protection Commission.

"I've been active in local government since we moved to Virginia. I got interested in working with the county and I slowly got to know the lay of the land with the supervisors," he said.

Once he retired from his job, working with various commissions for the Navy, he dedicated his time to his volunteer position with the commission.

Dennis Kirk, vice chairman of the Consumer Protection Commission, said Fowler has always been "a gentleman's gentleman. Larry's been a quiet diplomat and his work is always painstakingly detailed."

The two men worked together for 24 years, Kirk said, and now that Fowler has resigned, he'll miss his friend's influence on the commission.

"When Larry spoke, he was always right," Kirk said.

During a ceremony in which Fowler received a citation for his public service from the Washington Post, he took out a citation he had received for his work as a paper delivery boy in 1937, said current commission chair John Fee.

"The guy from the Post didn't know what to say and Larry just sat there and laughed," Fee said.

For the five years he worked with Fowler, Fee said Fowler was never one to do anything half-heartedly.

"Larry got an award from the county in 1997 for giving 19 gallons and 7 pints of blood," Fee said. "He doesn't do anything in small doses."

Two of the greatest responsibilities tackled by the commission during Fowler's tenure were the regulations of taxi cab fares and cable service contracts, Fee said.

"All the issues that came out of the introduction of cable television service, he's been a part of," he said. "He brings a good common sense approach to things."

To prove a point about the amount of junk mail received in the average home, Fowler once collected every bit of junk mail sent to his house for one year, just to see what kinds of things were sent.

NOW THAT the time has come for him to retire, Fee only wishes more volunteers were out there like Fowler, willing to set aside time to help the public.

"He's a good example for the rest of us," he said.

Many of his co-commissioners agree, including Gail Condrick, director of the Fairfax County Department of Cable Communication and Consumer Protection, which oversees the Consumer Protection Commission.

"Larry is the perfect example of a citizen devoted to serving his community," Condrick said. "He has given his time and expertise in building an effective consumer protection program."

Fowler was a member of the Public Utilities Commission in 1964, before it was renamed the Consumer Protection Commission, she said.

Always willing to provide a word of advice for new members, Condrick said Fowler's shoes will be almost impossible to fill.

"He was instrumental in drafting the ordinances that are the foundation to what we do," she said.

Now that he has resigned, Fowler said he plans to spend more time with his wife and continue to rest and get healthy after his bout with cancer, which has gone well so far.

"I just gave up the commission because I got sick," Fowler said. "I know the commission is in good hands. There's a lot of bright young people interested in what's going on."

He's also proud of the fact that his work on the commission has helped save "millions and millions of dollars for people in Fairfax County," he said. "The Department of Consumer Affairs and the commission have a good rapport with the business industry in Fairfax County. They know we're fair in our judgments."

Now that his late nights of 1 a.m. meetings are over, Larry and Jane Fowler will most likely spend a little more time with their children, daughters Catherine, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., and Cynthia, in Charlottesville. Their son, Larry Jr., lives in Springfield.

But most of all, he plans to spend more time with his wife.

"I think she's happy I'll be here," he said. "She seems to like that idea."