Say the words “Mr. Dexter”, and many people will immediately know that you are referring to Paul Cousins. Much of who Dexter is today is the result of Paul’s efforts over many years. His years of service have recently been recognized by the city through a proclamation.
“Paul is a wonderful man and a tremendous contribution to our community,” Mayor Shawn Keough said after reading the proclamation at the October 24 city council meeting.
“WHILEcouncil member Cousins was first elected to serve the village of Dexter in March 1992 until March 1998 as a trustee, and again served as a village trustee from March 2004 to November 2014, and again once as a member of the city council from November 2017 to November 2022…”
This second paragraph of the proclamation describing the terms of Paul’s counsel only scratches the surface of Paul’s involvement in Dexter. Looking at the initiatives that have made Dexter the desirable town it is today, it’s hard to find one that Paul hasn’t been a part of. There were hardly any open houses, grand openings, information meetings, dinners, panel discussions or events that Paul did not attend.
The city’s proclamation outlines its action to create the Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee and the development of First Street Park. Paul’s involvement with the Street/Sidewalk/Alley Committee, Board of Review, 5 Healthy Towns, Huron River Watershed Council, WAVE, Dexter Chamber of Commerce and the Big 400 is also listed. And these are just a few.
Paul and his late wife, Pat, immersed themselves in the community from the start. The Cousins came to Dexter in 1963 when Paul landed a job teaching high school biology, which he did in the classroom for ten years, then another ten years away in the outside lab at the school. school for environmental studies. From the start, Paul and Pat had what he describes as “a love affair with the community”.
“Pat got involved in various things, like the library,” Paul explained in a phone call. “She liked the people here. It ended up being a great relationship between the community and us.
When asked about Paul, Paul’s love for the people here is the first thing Mayor Keough mentions.
“He cares about people,” Mayor Keough said in a phone call. “He goes out of his way to ask about people and find out how they are doing. He is phenomenal with names. I don’t think he’s ever forgotten a name in the almost 20 years I’ve known him.
Paul retired from teaching in 1983, and those of us who have been around long enough remember Cousins’ Heritage Inn, which he opened the following year.
“Pat and I have always loved good food, and with his culinary experience in the hospital, we decided to open a restaurant on Main Street,” explains Paul. “A number of people in the community didn’t think we had a prayer, but we survived and led it successfully for 18 years.”
Many of us remember Paul showing up to a meeting with fresh blueberry muffins, brownies, or more exotic treats from the hostel kitchen. Paul sold the restaurant in 2002, and it was renamed “Terry B’s”. A few years ago it was sold. We now know it as “The Filmore”, where Dexter Rotary holds its weekly breakfast, of which Paul is a founding member.
Mayor Keough met Paul in 2004 when they were both running for village council. Standing beyond the 100ft line in the Wylie parking lot on a cold day in March as voters entered and exited the polls, Keough had a good introduction with the man he would work closely with and with. who he would fight at times for nearly two decades over what’s best for Dexter.
“Paul brought a passion just about every day I knew him,” Keough said. “He is always sincere in his thinking. He certainly has strong opinions about certain things. You never left a conversation with him without understanding where he was or how much he cared about the Dexter community.
The preservation of Gordon Hall is an example of Paul’s fiery drive.
“He was super passionate about preserving Gordon Hall,” Keough said. “He and others formed a group to raise all that money to buy it from the University of Michigan. I was 33 then and had never witnessed such an effort to preserve something special. historically important. I learned from it.
Gordon Hall wasn’t the only land Paul was aiming to restore. An environmentalist at heart, Paul has been the longest-serving board member of the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), since 1968.
The HRWC credits Paul’s vision and leadership with spearheading the removal of Dexter’s Mill Pond dam in 2008. The removal restored a stagnant village pond over 200 miles of free-flowing stream habitat for brown trout, beavers, muskrats, herons and other wildlife. . The pond area has since been rejuvenated into Dexter’s popular Mill Creek Park, becoming a focal point for area trails. The HRWC presented Paul with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
A few years after the dam was removed, Paul set his sights on city status for the village of Dexter. At the time, the village of Dexter was divided between the townships of Webster and Scio, governed by two different municipalities.
“Paul felt we should be a city and was part of the group that strongly supported this push because of what it would do to bring us together as a community,” Keough said.
Dexter became a town in 2014. Next on the list: a new fire station. The current one was built in the 1950s. Anyone who follows will know that Paul was a strong advocate for building a new public safety facility for Dexter. On Nov. 8, Dexter voters will finally have the chance to decide on a proposed public safety mile that, if passed, will achieve that goal.
When asked what drove him so passionately all these years, Paul replied succinctly, “I wanted to get involved because you have to stand up for what you think is right.”
Mayor Keough notes, “If Paul loves something, his passion for it comes to the surface and his enthusiasm is contagious.”
As he winds down his career in public service, Paul’s advice to those who carry the torch here is: “They must do what is best for the community as a whole and not for a small minority of people. who think they have the right answer. »
And now, while Paul’s ubiquitous presence at town meetings and community events may dwindle and be missed, he will no doubt be felt for generations to come by people who never knew him but benefit from the impact of his work.
“NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Dexter City Council hereby proclaims its thanks and appreciation to Paul Cousins for his extraordinary years of service to the citizens of Dexter.”