By Jesse Wood
Jan. 15, 2015. More than 100 people attended the Banner Elk Chamber’s annual dinner at Stonewalls Restaurant as Rick Owen was presented the “Person of the Year” award by Tom McMurray, the wife of new Banner Elk Chamber President Jo-Ann McMurray, on Wednesday.
“It’s an honor and a total shock,” Owen said on Thursday morning. “It’s an incredible honor, no question about it.”
Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly, who called Owen “an excellent town manager,” had nothing but praise for him on Thursday.
“Rick has been an excellent town manager. Everyone has good things to say about him. He’s methodical. He cares about the Town of Banner Elk. Since he grew up here, he takes it seriously and doesn’t have a personal agenda. He just wants what is best for the town,” Lyerly said. “We’ve been very pleased for everything he’s helped us with. He works hard and doesn’t take it as a 9-to-5 job.
Owen has been the town manager of Banner Elk since 2010, and has served as the mayor of Beech Mountain for nearly 15 years.
Born and raised in the area, he’s resided between the two communities is entire life. His mother is Deka Tate, a former mayor of Banner Elk, and his father Bill Owen was one of the first contractors to perform work on what is now Beech Mountain for the Carolina Caribbean Corporation. This was years before Beech Mountain incorporated in 1981.
Owen even attended school at the historic Banner Elk Elementary School, which the town recently purchased from Avery County, in his younger days. Once he finished grade school, Owen went on to receive two degrees from Lees-McRae College, which is located amidst the heart of downtown Banner Elk. In 2012, the college presented him with the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Prior to becoming the town manager, he worked in resort management for Beech Mountain Resort for more than two decades. With some experience with how municipal governments operate as mayor of Beech Mountain and management experience at the ski resort, Owen said that the two roles were a “perfect fit” for becoming the town manager.
Asked how finds the time to manage one town and be the mayor of another, Owen said he considers one a day job and the other a community service.
He noted that as an elected official, “you don’t quite have as much control as you think you do.” However as town manager, he said he has the ability to make recommendations every day that have a positive, more direct impact on the community.
Talking about being able to live in the same area his entire life, Owen said, “I’ve been fortunate to stay in the area and work here and live here and raise a family.”
Owen, a member of the Banner Elk Presbyterian Church, is married to Nancy, and they have one son, Hampton, who is 10.