Meet Andrew Owen, District 9’s new representative on Louisville Metro Council
Metro Council Member Andrew Owen hasn’t held public office before, but he is intimately familiar with Louisville’s 26-member legislative body.
His father, Tom Owen, was a Metro Council representative for District 8 from 2002 to 2016, and even made a run for the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1998.
“I have had the opportunity to watch it from the front row,” the younger Owen said. “I saw a lot of the good work that my dad was able to do.”
He said seeing what his dad and his colleagues were able to accomplish, and the pride they took in their work, was one of the reasons he decided to run for the District 9 seat on Metro Council. Owen’s district includes much of the Frankfort Avenue business corridor, as well as the Clifton, Crescent Hill and Brownsboro Zorn neighborhoods.
Owen runs a commercial real estate investment company and has a background in urban planning. He said he plans to focus on helping improve the built environment, like sidewalks, bike lanes and plantings along public streets.
“The more a space is a place that people want to be, want to be out walking and biking and ducking their head in a shop and spending money, the more that benefits small shops and businesses,” he said. “In the 9th District, we have a bevy of shops and businesses. It’s one of the best things about our district.”
Owen also said he also plans to focus a lot of his energy on constituent services, like connecting residents and business owners to city resources and helping resolve any issues people might have with Metro Government.
“All of those things you can do on a public policy level are wonderful,” he said. “But at the end of the day, if you don’t do constituent services and constituent communications well you’re not going to be around long enough to try your hand at the other stuff.”
LPM’s Roberto Roldan recently sat down with Owen to discuss his priorities for his new role on Metro Council. An excerpt of that interview, edited for length and clarity, is below:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What made you want to run for Metro Council?
I grew up in Louisville and went through the Jefferson County Public School System. I left Louisville for about 13 years. When I came back, my wife and I moved to Old Louisville and I kind of got involved in neighborhood activism in Old Louisville. I was on the board of the Old Louisville Information Center, on the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council. I was the president of the Belgravia Court Neighborhood Association. And so I kind of cut my teeth in neighborhood activism in Old Louisville.
But you're not particularly new to this whole Metro Council thing, right?
Well, I certainly had a little bit of a front row seat. My dad is Tom Owen and he started serving on the old Board of Aldermen and then served on Metro Council for a long time. He ran for mayor in 1998, in the Democratic primary. In conversations with other people who had served on the Board of Aldermen, Metro Council, they talked about how it was some of the most noble work they ever did, and kind of recited some of their accomplishments and things that they were still proud of when they walked around the city and saw things that they were involved in that that they're still proud of. And that kind of public service, I think, is noble. And I can't wait to get started and see what we can accomplish.
When you were campaigning for office, you said that improving public spaces and public infrastructure would be one of your top priorities. Can you explain what that means?
That really comes directly out of my urban planning background. For me, when I talk about public infrastructure, I'm talking about all the little things: curbs and sidewalks and crosswalks and benches and plantings. The little things that when you're in a place, you may not know for sure what it is about that place that you like, but all those little things add up. I'm a big believer in the built environment and how that affects humans and how that makes us act and feel. I think there's very much value in a place feeling good.
Your district, District 9, includes neighborhoods around the Frankfort Avenue business corridor like Clifton and Crescent Hill, and it also includes the Brownsboro area. When you were out knocking on doors, what issues did you hear from residents most often?
You hear a lot of people talking about broken sidewalks, speeding, development projects. You know, one of the things that I kept hearing over and over was dissatisfaction with short term rentals. The ordinance that was done and has been updated a number of times since it was passed. A lot of people in my area are still not happy about that.
The person who represented District 9 previously, Bill Hollander, was one of the loudest voices on Metro Council in support of affordable housing. Is that something that you plan to continue his advocacy work on?
Absolutely. When I graduated from college and moved to Washington, D.C., my first job was on Capitol Hill for a very short period of time. Then I went and began working for an affordable housing developer. So, I understand a little bit better than most people how those deals are structured and the process as it relates to state and federal funding. When you look around Metro Louisville, currently, both the lack of affordable housing, decent, safe, affordable housing, and also the homeless issue, those two things are something that we are going to have to continue focusing on. I will definitely try to carry that mantle forward that Bill has set the bar pretty high on.