Metro Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, will not run for re-election next year, which likely will open a flood of Democratic candidates filing to run in the liberal Highlands district before the Jan. 26 deadline.
Owen — who served on the Louisville Board of Alderman for eight years in the 1990s and councilman for District 8 since 2002 — tells Insider Louisville that his decision mostly had to do with lightening his work load in his “sunset years.” Owen is 76 years old and would be 81 at the end of another term; he estimates that for 22 years he has worked over one-and-a-half full-time jobs while serving in public office and being a historian at the University of Louisville.
“At 76 years of age, I simply asked the question: If I’m lucky enough to have 15 energetic, conscious years left, do I want to spend it with 1.6 full time jobs?” Owen says. “Or do I want to slow down a little bit in these sunset years and focus on the other jobs that I love very dearly… and I’m not interested in quitting. I love both jobs. But if I had to make a decision for these latter years, I’d rather focus on being an archivist and historian at the University of Louisville doing local history, rather than keep stretching it with these long days, short nights for another four years, another eight years, another 12 years.”
The Courier-Journal first reported news of Owen’s decision Wednesday morning.
Owen tells IL he made the decision now so there would be enough time for candidates to file for office in the next eight weeks, and he expects a large number of candidates to do so, which is “just a statement about the energy and commitment to community of the people of the Highlands.”
“There are plenty of younger people, able people, who I believe will continue the tradition of progressive leadership in the Highlands,” says Owen. “That’s a 100-year tradition, by the way.”
When longtime council member Tina Ward-Pugh announced she was not running for re-election in the liberal District 9 in 2014, 13 Democratic candidates filed for office, with Ward-Pugh making a conscious decision not to endorse anyone and tip the scales. Asked if he would do the same, Owen says he has not thought that far ahead, though he is already hearing the names of potential candidates this morning. To date, only Democratic candidate William Corey Nett has filed to run for the seat.
Bucking his academic tendency to look back, Owen made a point of mentioning that he won’t be doing any retrospection about his time in elected office until this time next year, as he’ll still be an active member of Metro Council in 2016.
“I’m not interested in looking back yet,” says Owen. “I”ll do that in late December of 2016. I’m not going to move quietly to the periphery in these last 13 months of service. The only downside of saying I’m quitting is that I’m not quitting today, I’m quitting in 13 months.”