A Meeting with Mayor Owens
An Interview with the City's First Female Mayor
"I am not a politician. I am an activist"
For as long as she can remember, Anna Latta Owens was a community activist. Active in the neighborhood association, local schools, and community groups, Owens said that she always looked for solutions to better the community.
Now 94, Owens looks back at her time in Council and as Mayor for the City of College Park.
Moving to the City
In 1963, Anna Owens and her husband Dermot, began looking to move her growing family out of the increasingly expensive Washington D.C. She was working for the U.S. Department of State and needed somewhere close to the District but still affordable and a good place to settle into. After looking at various Maryland suburbs, they chose College Park in part because of it's somewhat rural atmosphere and proximity to the University of Maryland. The Owens would live here for almost 50 years.
In their new home in College Park Woods, they raised a daughter and a son. One of Owen's favorite memories was of the ponies that would occassionally come visit some of the homes there. There used to be a pony farm nearby; they worked in Takoma Park giving rides to kids.
Running for City Council
Owens was a very active member of her community, particularly for the local schools. She worked as a substitute teacher and was heavily involved as a volunteer for Cherokee Lane Elementary school and Buck Lodge Junior High. When Owens heard that a local school didn't have an art program, she reached out to Gail Kushner (wife of Mayor Al Kushner). Mrs. Kushner contacted a University of Maryland Art Department Dean who worked to add an art program at that school.
When Owens first ran for City Council in 1980, she said she had to be talked into it by the mayor. "I am not a politician," she would say, "I am an activist."
After a successful campaign, Owens would go on to serve three terms from 1981 through 1987. During her Council tenure, she remembers a time of contention. Her biggest fight came with her opposition to a proposed garbage incinerator that would have been located near her District. After researching (even going as far as to speak to scientists in Belgium) and talking to other jurisdictions, she succesfully lobbied the Council to prevent the garbage incinerator citing potential and unknown health concerns.
The First Female Mayor
With the encouragement of her husband, Anna Owens successfully ran for Mayor in 1987. She would become the first woman mayor of College Park.
Her time as mayor saw an ever-evolving College Park. As Mayor, she helped create a downtown area on Baltimore Avenue, created a beautification committee to help clean and take care of roads, helped reinstate the National League of Cities (NLC) Town and Gown group in College Park, and worked with the University to create the Kramer Housing Study to better understand the needs and develop a plan for student housing.
She would be relected two more times as mayor, before stepping down in 1993.
Life after Politics
Despite being out of politics for more than 20 years, Owens keeps up with what's going on in College Park. She remains active with the College Park Volunteer Fire Department and other organizations and is up-to-date with many of the latest news and developments happening in the City.