Q&A with Woodbury City Council challenger Tom Owens
• Age: 63
• Address: 9418 Knighton Road
• Occupation: I am a self-employed insurance agent
• Education: I hold two undergraduate degrees from Youngstown State (Ohio) University and my Executive MBA from the University of St. Thomas
• Family: Married to Deborah. We have three adult children: Leah, a homemaker; William, Lino Lakes police sergeant; and Elizabeth, recreation specialist with Woodbury. We also have two children by marriage: Leah's husband, Andrew, cardiologist with Mayo Clinic; and William's wife, Amanda, a homemaker. Our children have blessed us with three grandchildren—Eli, Daniel and Evangeline.
• Civic involvement: My community work started in 1974, when, as a police officer, I volunteered with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the city's youth program and the school system, where I introduced the Officer Friendly program. As we moved around the country I stayed involved with: our church as a Sunday school teacher, the administrative board and as a trustee; the Boy Scouts, where I held various positions during eight years; our homeowners association as a board member and treasurer. In my profession I led a meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in Quantico, Va., led various workshops in San Diego, Calif., and helped some insurance companies deal with insurance fraud. All told, 42 years of volunteer service.
Why are you running for Woodbury City Council?
I am a candidate for Woodbury City Council to ensure our past successes continue. Mayor Bill Hargis set the tone for today. His foresight recognized opportunities and he, literally, set us up for success. Today, your Council needs the same foresight to see opportunities on the horizon that others don't even notice. For example, the Gold Line bus-rapid transit (BRT) is coming. Are there opportunities for Woodbury to leverage and take advantage of? How can we take advantage of this opportunity and make it work very well for our city and our citizens? I am the person who can see those opportunities.
What are the biggest issues or challenges Woodbury faces?
Woodbury is facing issues. One issue is water. Our aquifer is being strained. We are safe today. However, someone needs to be vigilant with this, carefully watching the numbers and calculating if our conservation efforts are effective.
A second issue is the growing number of seniors. I've been told that in five years we will have as many seniors as we do schoolchildren. Seniors have unique needs. As we move from our early 60s to our 70s, and then our 80s, our needs will change. We will need better lighting — everywhere. We will need more parking — everywhere — and the closer to the building entrance, the better. We will need more benches, lots of benches. We may need public transportation. Many of these are easy to accomplish. What we need is someone who will listen to the needs, then get to work on them. Of course, complicating this, these seniors — the baby boomers — will be retired, on fixed incomes, and not in a position to support significant tax increases.
I am the creative, outcome-focused person who can get this type of job done.
How do you plan to address these issues?
How will I address the issues I will face:
Listen. Listening is hard work. It means paying attention to the speaker. It means hearing the meaning, as well as the words. It is a requirement to understanding.
Understand. So many of us are quick to offer an opinion or to move to problem solving. That does not work for me. Seek first to understand. The customers' opinions and my employees' opinions are important. If I don't understand the issue or opportunity, I don't stand a chance of making a good decision.
Remember I represent about 67,000 people. Every individual is important and deserves to be heard. Decisions must be made for the good of the entire community.
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I have no personal knowledge of any of the other candidates. I've met Ms. Scoggins, but I cannot say I know her. The citizens of Woodbury probably have a wonderful problem — how to select two council members from such a wide selection of nice-looking candidates? Consider this:
Deborah and I have lived in Woodbury since 1992 — 24 years. We raised our children here.
My community service started in 1974. Forty-two years later, I am still at it.
I am self-employed. I understand the need to pay attention to the customer (the citizen) and I make good decisions (or I would be broke). I am customer focused and make solid decisions.
Being self-employed, I have flexibility with my schedule. I can meet people day or night — and weekends are OK.
Woodbury has a $78 million budget. I led a division with a $170 million budget. I am not new to this size of organization. I understand leadership, I understand management, and I understand they are not the same thing. I am a good manager. I am a better leader.