By Mackenzie Clark
Editor’s note: An article about Greg Smith, current representative in the Kansas House who is running against Tim Owens, ran in Issue 9 of the Campus Ledger.
Tim (Thomas) Owens, adjunct associate professor of political science, is currently running to defend his District 8 Kansas Senate seat. A Republican with an extensive background in law and politics, Owens hopes to continue representing his constituents.
“My goal has always been to represent the people that elect me, and I am more interested in the issues than I am in touting some political party program or platform,” he said. “[…] I’ve got a great deal of experience in a number of different issues that relate to Overland Park and the central part of Johnson County, and that’s what’s important to me.”
Owens cites jobs and the economy as the most important issues for this locale and his constituency; secondly, education.
“We cannot ignore education,” he said. “We have to stay very staunchly behind the appropriate support for education; that includes all levels, from K-12, higher education, and that includes community colleges as well as technical schools, because I think sometimes we ignore those.”
Thirdly, he said, “we must watch out for public safety.” He served six years as chair of the Public Safety Committee of Overland Park, and funding is always a concern.
“We need to have the adequate facilities to deal with the levels of wrongdoers that we have,” he said. “[…] I saw the city grow from 82,000 to 160,000 while I was on the City Council, so I saw that need grow for the number of officers. We now have a state-of-the-art police department here.”
Many Republicans consider taxes a big issue, but Owens said the legislature can not just blindly make cuts in order to lower taxes, nor should they raise them unnecessarily.
“I support a small efficient government, and I think that’s critical,” he said. “The thing that the party fails to say often is they leave the ‘efficient’ out – they just say we want small government. Well, what does that mean? If you don’t say ‘efficient’ then you’re missing the boat. […] We have to fund education. We have to fund our prisons. We have to fund our highway patrol and our law enforcement – all of those things are governmental entities.”
Owens is a retired Army Colonel. He served a tour in Vietnam and has received many awards for his service, including three Bronze Stars and two Meritorious Service medals.
Upon his return, Owens began studying law. As a practicing lawyer, his specialties include family, juvenile, and elder and disability law. He has represented over 1,000 juveniles in his career, both offenders and children in need of care, and served as a guardian ad litem when appointed by the courts.
He has also been politically involved for much of his career. He served 24 years on the Overland Park City Council, after which he was appointed to a seat in the Kansas House. After three House terms, he was elected to his current seat in the Kansas Senate in 2008.
Owens currently chairs the Judiciary and Reapportionment Committees, as well as the Joint Committee on Parole Board Oversight. He was appointed to several other committees, including Education.
As a political science professor, he applies his practical experience to the classroom.
“I can go into the classroom and bring a real world perspective to the students,” Owens said.
He also brings in people he knows as guest speakers. In the past he has brought in former Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, Robert E. Davis; Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer; former Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, and many justices, legislators, and city officials.
College alumna Martha Kidd said that Owens does a great job of challenging his students and getting them interested in politics. At first she was not happy that American Government would be required for her business management major, but then she learned about the political science internship program through the college, of which Owens is a sponsor.
“I thought I could go to Topeka one day a week and learn about our political system,” she said, “and I did that, and discovered that I love our political system.”
Kidd interned for Rep. Bob Bethell (R-113) first, then decided she wanted to experience the Senate side as well, so she interned for Owens.
“It is a wonderful experience,” she said. “You have the opportunity to firsthand see how legislation is made.”
Marilyn Gaar, professor of political science and history, said Owens is one of many fine adjunct professors at the college.
“If a student is interested in state and local government, there’s no one better to teach it,” she said. “Our approach to hiring has been to look for people whose background is not just in the textbook, it’s not just book learning, but they have experience in the field. […] We bring in someone who is truly an expert in the field, and that would be someone such as Senator Thomas Owens.
Contact Mackenzie Clark, editor-in-chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org.