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Losing a leader

Former Columbus Mayor/Polk County Commissioner dies

POLK COUNTY—Polk County residents and government are mourning the loss of former county commissioner Ted Owens.

Owens, 83, died on Tuesday morning after being taken to Mission Memorial Hospital over a week ago with COVID-19 symptoms, according to county officials.

Owens served as the Columbus Mayor and later for several terms as Polk County Commissioner, including serving as chairman.

Current commissioner chair Myron Yoder said he will always remember the words of Ted Owens.

“He always was concerned about which direction the county was going and then he always thanked me for what I was doing for the county and the people he loved,” Yoder said. “It was like a father watching over his family. I felt his love and concern. I will miss his wise instructions. May God comfort the family in their loss of a father, husband, grandpa and leader.”

Commissioner vice-chair, who also once served as Columbus Councilman when Owens was mayor, Tommy Melton, said he has known Owens his entire life.

“Ted and I had many conversations over the many, many years,” Melton said. “Ted spoke in a very soft tone and always put God first, family second and county third. Ted had wisdom and was committed to what he believed. Ted loved Polk County his entire life. If you saw Ted, you saw Elna (his wife) always. He will be missed greatly.”

County commissioner Paul Beiler said Ted will be missed by our community.

“I don’t believe I met a man that was more dedicated to his community than Ted,” Beiler said. “He was very passionate about what was happening in our community and I believe always tried to make decisions that would better Polk County.”

Beiler said Owens was always kind and gracious to him and would offer advice as he tried to get established as a commissioner.

“I have heard of many lives that were touched by this man,” Beiler said. “Polk County lost a great man today.”

Polk County Commissioner David Moore said Owens was such a special friend and more importantly, his mentor.

“He was a true gentleman and a man of his word,” Moore said.

Moore said he will never forget how excited Owens was when he was appointed to fill the term of former commissioner Jake Johnson.

“He has taught me so much over the years,” Moore said. “Our county has lost a very special man in Ted Owens.”

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he had the privilege to serve with Owens several years on the board of commissioners.

“During that time, Ted always demonstrated to me his dedication of constantly working for the people of our county, especially Polk County Schools,” Gasperson said.

Gasperson said his fondest memories of Owens was his ability to tell a story. He said he is grateful for a trip to Raleigh the two took alone in 2011 where he got to know Owens much better and enjoyed the many great stories he told.

“Ted will be greatly missed,” Gasperson said. “My sincere condolences to his wife, family and friends.”

Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene said Owens was always a vocal advocate for our students and families and a tremendous supporter of our district and schools.

“As a commissioner he evidenced this commitment consistently,” Greene said. “Whether in the stands rooting for the Wolverines or making the difficult financial and policy decisions Mr. Owens was always focused on doing his very best for our students and schools and all citizens. I know I speak for the Polk County Board of Education and our entire Polk Schools Family in offering our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. We join together in mourning the loss of a true public servant and good man.”

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said Owens loved and appreciated his community and the people within it. Pittman said whether Owens was attending a spaghetti supper or serving as commissioner, he constantly found ways to pay back the county that he loved.

“We should all aspire to love our community as much as he did,” Pittman said. “We should attempt to be as dedicated as he was. The loss of Ted has created a void that will be felt for a long time, but the inspiration brought by looking at the life he lived will benefit our community forever.”

Owens served as Columbus Mayor and Polk County Commissioner throughout the years as well as the chair of the Polk County Republican Headquarters. Owens was commissioner from 1983-1988 as well as from 2004-2008 and 2010-2016.

Owens was a Navy veteran, having served 2 tours of duty in the Persian Gulf.

He spent his career as an executive of Milliken & Co., a technical and marketing consultant and author of several articles for trade magazines. Owens served on numerous boards of directors and received various awards. He was a member of Coopers Gap Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher.

Owens leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Elna, 3 children and several grandchildren.