Interview with Roswell Mayor Bill Owen

With Roswell’s heavy reputation for oddity, you’d figure the guy running the town to have been transported directly from Sirius B, complete with green skin and tentacles. But Roswell Mayor Bill Owen is a surprisingly regular guy and a natural for his position. Born to Roswell High alums and high school sweethearts, Owen, though he “was away for most of the ’70s,” has spent most of his life in the town.
After graduating Godard High School in 1971, Owen lived on the East Coast, where he held a position with the FBI for five years and graduated from the University of Maryland. Returning to Roswell in 1979, he restarted life there in the insurance industry and as a married man. Owen entered the oil business in 1982 as land manager for LDM Associates, a position he still holds. Experience with Roswell city government began in the late ’80s, with his two terms served on the city council resulting in his election to his current position in 1998.

Did you always want to be mayor?

No. I started on the city council for two four-year terms, from ’88 to ’96, and the question then was “What made me run for city council?” My dad was city manager back in the ’70s and in the early ’80s, so when I was growing up, I can remember my dad coming home and talking the next day about odd things happening at city council meeting. As a kid in high school, I would stop in to see him down at City Hall … so I had early exposure to city government. I decided I wanted to be involved.

Have you always been interested in politics?

Not specifically politics. I’ve never had a master plan telling me what to run for when I reach a certain age. A lot of times, people have asked if I have further political ambitions. The answer is it certainly could happen, but it’s not a big part of some master plan. People have asked about running for positions higher up, but there are no decisions and no commitments made as to whether that’s going to happen.

What is your party affiliation?

One of the most enjoyable parts about running for local office-and it’s unfortunate that this isn’t the case nationwide-is that people are forced to run on a non-partisan basis. I could count on one hand the number of people, including you, that have asked about party affiliation. In three elections, this has never come up. And that’s interesting to me because then people are forced to look at [candidates], forced to listen to what they say and people are forced to decide the best candidate. You don’t get to be mayor of Roswell without winning both sides. It was comfortable to know that people supported me without having one party affiliation or the other.

What problems are facing Roswell?

There may be specific problems-I wouldn’t say that Hobbs, for example, hasn’t suffered tremendous setbacks due to this oil situation. Roswell, being isolated as we are, has its own set of problems to deal with when it comes to economic development. Our current goal is to bring in different companies to Roswell that will allow us to diversify our economy, so that if something goes wrong with our economic base in Roswell, it doesn’t devastate us.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of your job?

They’re kind of the same question. I get exposed to things happening in Roswell that I guarantee most people have no idea about-so many different people and different causes that I get to be a very small part of. I get to see these things and meet people who never make the headlines, people who are very dedicated to Roswell. Of the 20 schools in Roswell, I’ve been to all of them. The downside is that whenever people have a problem, they want to come directly to me.

And what do you tell the kids?

One of the biggest things I try to point out to them is that every one of them is a role model. Every one of them has a chance to influence people around them.

Any words to live by?

My dad always use to say “Work hard and do the right thing.” I can’t say how many times he told me that. So many times people don’t do the right thing.

I’d be remiss in not asking this one. What happened in 1947?

Well, I checked my birth certificate the other day and it said “1953,” so I wasn’t around in 1947, so I don’t know what happened. On the serious side, my answer is that I believe that something happened out there. I think if you listen to all the evidence that you have to have a question in your mind that something unusual happened. I haven’t seen anyone yet come forward to dispel or prove beyond a shadow of a doubt either theory. And, of course, that’s what keeps this mystery going and I really can’t see that ever changing. It is a mystery that is not likely to be solved.

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