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Op-Ed: Uniquely Prepared to Represent 69th District in State House

I am running for State Representative in NKY’s 69th House District because I believe I can do the job better than its current occupant, Adam Koenig. Why? Because a lifetime of service to others and the community has uniquely prepared me to do so.  

I grew up in Kenton County, and graduated from Dixie Heights High School. My parents’ strong belief in the value of education and the quality of my public-school experience made possible my admission to Harvard College on scholarship. After graduating I attended Harvard Divinity School, then graduated from Boston University School of Law. These opportunities prepared me well for my career in law, teaching, advocacy, and public service.

I put my legal education to work for Legal Aid, representing working poor people. I advocated for policies and programs that supported their efforts to achieve economic stability in low-wage jobs. Most of this work was carried out in the state legislature, where I worked with lawmakers of both parties to achieve our objectives. My major accomplishment was helping to secure health care for hundreds of thousands of people by co-leading a successful statewide campaign.  

My legislative work involved my co-chairing at different times two major statewide coalitions, one of which advocated for health care reform and the other of which pursued a broader-based human services advocacy agenda.  My work was recognized with several statewide awards for outstanding leadership and advocacy.

While at Legal Aid I was invited by the University of Cincinnati College of Law to teach. My mother had been an elementary teacher and I spent my childhood observing her dedication to her work, and how rewarding it was. I inherited from her a passion for helping others to learn. I began teaching poverty law at UC as an adjunct professor and taught there for twenty-one years. After retiring from Legal Aid, I began teaching at NKU’s Chase College of Law. I continue teaching there. I know first-hand the joys and challenges of the classroom.  

My mother’s continuing influence, and the importance of education for people trying to get out of poverty, led me to apply for a vacant seat on the Covington Board of Education. I received the appointment and was subsequently elected four times, serving sixteen years. I experienced, again first-hand, the challenges of operating an inner-city school district. I chaired the board several times, and took the lead in recruiting capable leadership, providing student support services, establishing an informal process for teachers and administration to resolve issues, and underwriting budgets with difficult votes on revenue. The citizens of Covington supported me throughout. And test scores improved.

Complementing my work on the school board was my service on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Kentucky School Boards Association Board of Directors. These activities involved me in the education policy debate in the legislature, while my Legal Aid work kept me involved in legislative advocacy on a wide variety of human services, health care, and employment issues.

As these experiences demonstrate, policy work has been central to my career.

Policy work is what legislatures do.

Which brings me to the present. To say the General Assembly is in disarray is a dramatic understatement. Adam Koenig has been right at the center of that polarized disarray, supporting measures which undercut and destabilize teachers and other working people. Cutting pension rights and workers compensation benefits, eliminating prevailing wage, voting for right-to-work, voting to cut unemployment compensation benefits, voting against increasing the minimum wage - at every turn he has opposed the interests of educators and working people.   

We need representatives in Frankfort who want to do the right things for their constituents. But more than that we need people who have the training, experience and skill sets to get those things done. Whether providing adequate funding for education, for maintaining a system of near-universal health care access, for establishing a fair and adequate system of taxation, for insuring an adequate infrastructure, or for establishing incentives for renewable energy -  we need legislators who have the proven ability to work across party lines to move things forward.

I believe I possess these qualities and that my lifetime of service has uniquely and more than adequately prepared me to take on this job.

I hope the voters of the 69th District agree and will vote for me in the Democratic primary on May 22.

Col Owens is a retired Legal Aid attorney who now teaches at NKU Chase College of Law. He is running for the Democratic nomination to represent the 69th District of the Kentucky House of Representatives, which is currently held by Republican Adam Koenig. Owens faces Ryan Neaves in the May primary.
Photo: Col Owens (provided)