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Staunton City Manager Steve Owen announces retirement

Steve OwenSteve Owen, Staunton’s city manager for the last 12 years, has announced his retirement from the position, effective June 30, 2019.

Owen has been in public service for nearly 38 years and is Staunton’s second-longest serving city manager.

He was appointed to the position by Staunton City Council in March of 2007, following the retirement of then city manager Bob Stripling. Before taking the helm in Staunton, Owen held local government management positions in Herndon, Powhatan County, Frederick County, Leesburg, Berryville and Wakefield.

“It has been a great honor to serve the citizens of Staunton and a total of 14 council members over the last dozen years,” Owen said. “Together, we have continued to move Staunton forward, and I believe the Queen City now shines brighter than ever. The progress we’ve made, in spite of the Great Recession, has been a wonderful capstone to my 38 years of service as a Virginia local government manager.“

Some advancements made during Owen’s tenure include:

  • the creation of efficiencies in City operations, including the consolidation of both the finance and human resources departments with Staunton City Schools; the merger of the engineering and planning and inspections departments into a community development department; the creation of a shared communications position with the school division; the recruitment of multiple successful department directors; and streamlined processes for ag-forestal district renewals and rezoning;
  • the completion of several significant City projects which include the Churchville Avenue streetscape project; the restoration of the Sears Hill Bridge; upgraded state-of-the-art technology for the City’s emergency communications center; numerous water, sewer and stormwater improvements; the renovation and reopening of the Montgomery Hall Park pool; the opening of a dog park at Gypsy Hill Park; and collaboration with Staunton City Schools an improvement project for McSwain Elementary School and the upcoming renovation of the City’s high school;
  • regional government agency expansion projects completed at the Middle River Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Augusta Regional Landfill and the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center; the creation and expansion of the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center; and a $21.5 million agreement to add the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County as partner localities in the Middle River Regional Jail; and
  • ongoing support for private sector development projects at Staunton Crossing, Frontier Center and The Villages at Staunton.

“I often say that I hit the trifecta with Staunton: a beautiful city, an excellent staff, and a manager’s dream of good governance from consistently supportive mayors and council members,” Owen said. “To the extent I have been successful here, credit goes to our outstanding workforce. Staunton’s employees are simply the best, anywhere, and have a real heart for public service.”

Owen’s early announcement will allow him to work with City Council on the 2020 fiscal year budget and afford time for Council to appoint his successor.

“We have appreciated Steve’s commitment to the success of the City and its citizens and his leadership over the years,” said Mayor Carolyn Dull. “He’s made significant contributions to Staunton’s progress and established a good rapport with Council, staff and citizens that we all value. He will be missed.”

Dull said that City Council will discuss the best way to proceed in filling the position in the coming weeks.

Owen graduated from the College of William and Mary with a bachelor’s degree in government and received a master’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia (UVA). He’s also a graduate of UVA’s Senior Executive Institute at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

He began his career in government as a legislative aide to former Virginia Del. L. Ray Ashworth during the 1979 session of the General Assembly.

Owen is an adjunct instructor at the Virginia Tech Center for Public Administration and Policy and a guest lecturer at James Madison University, Mary Baldwin University and the University of Virginia.

He serves on numerous local and state boards and is a member of several civic organizations and professional associations, including the International City Management Association; Virginia Local Government Management Association (past president); Virginia Local Government Finance Corporation; Historic Staunton Foundation and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Staunton. He is treasurer on the Virginia First Cities board of directors and president of Staunton Rotary Club.

Owen and his wife, Shelby—who is the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church—have three children and two grandchildren. The couple plans to continue to reside in the area.

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