In the town's first official action of the new year, the Herndon Town Council unanimously appointed Stephen F. Owen as town manager during the Tuesday, Jan. 8 work session. Effective Feb. 1, Owen will replace the retiring Ed Moore when he leaves his post at the end of January.
Calling it a moment to celebrate and a "big step for the town," Herndon Mayor Richard Thoesen ushered in a new era in Herndon when he publicly introduced Owen for the first time Tuesday night. "We think Steve is going to be a tremendous asset to the Town of Herndon," Thoesen said.
In a brief statement to council and staff, Owen, who will earn $120,000 per year, said he looked forward to working closely with Moore over the next few weeks. "I'd just like to thank the Town Council for the confidence you have shown in me. It is nice to come in here on a — hopefully — unanimous vote," he said to a laughing room, minutes before the council's pro forma vote. "I know I have some big shoes to fill."
Vice Mayor Carol Bruce said the council had a very good plan in place to pick the right candidate. From a pool of about 60 applicants, the council narrowed a list of 10 finalists in half before interviewing the final five applicants. "It was important for us to look for a good fit, someone who had the knowledge, the background, the skill and the education," she said. "We needed someone that would work well with this staff and this council."
Owen said it was also important to him to feel comfortable with the situation. "As soon as I heard that the position was open, I was interested," Owen said. "The more I learned about Herndon, the more I felt comfortable with the opportunity. I've been impressed with the inclusiveness of the decision making, the protection and preservation of neighborhoods, and I don't know of another town in Virginia that had the foresight to build a parkway around it."
Owen comes to the job with 21 years of administrative and operations experience in Virginia local government. For nine years from 1993 until June 2002, Owen was county administrator in Powhatan, Va. About 24,000 people live in Powhatan County, a rural but fast growing county 20 miles outside of Richmond.
According to a May 15, 2002 story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Owen resigned his post in Powhatan to move to Alexandria because his wife, Shelby, planned to become an ordained Episcopal priest after attending the Virginia Theological Seminary. Owen and his wife have three children; Graham, 15, Emily, 13, and Sam, 8.
T.J. Bise, a member of the five-seat board of supervisors in Powhatan County has worked closely with Owen for more than a decade. "Stephen is an outstanding individual and a great person," Bise said from his Powhatan home Tuesday night. "He has a great ability to bring people together because he is smooth, easy-going and well-liked. Any town would be lucky to have him."
Most recently, Owen worked in the private sector where he had worked as a real estate manager for the Luck Stone Corporation since June 2002. Prior to his stint in Powhatan, Owen was an assistant county administrator for Frederick County, Va. for six years, an assistant town manager for Leesburg, Va. for two years and town manager for Berryville, Va. from 1982-1985.
According to a release announcing Owen's hiring, Owen led Powhatan County through a 46 percent growth during the 1990s. During the Tuesday night press conference, Thoesen praised Owen's record of "organizational efficiency and responsiveness." Owen was also responsible for "securing over $500,000 in park grants in order to establish Fighting Creek Park," the county's first park.
Owen, a native of Wakefield, Va., graduated from the College of William and Mary. He received a master's degree in planning from the University of Virginia and certificate in economic development from the University of North Carolina.