By Mary C. Cook
College Park’s first and only female mayor, Anna Latta Owens, was just five years old when she arrived with her family from Pcoline, (then) Czechoslovakia. As a girl, she lived in a rickety, wooden house, and in the evenings, as Anna studied at the kitchen table, her job was to catch the mice which scurried up from the cellar.
There were few career choices for young women who left high school in the early 1940’s. So following her graduation, she chose to become a nurse. Within months, however, she joined the State Department where she worked in the human resources office while waiting for a posting overseas.
Before she could be sent abroad, Anna married Dermott Michael Owens, and they eventually settled in their brick home in College Park Woods with their children, Kerry and Steve. Anna became active with the West College Park Civic Association, and in time, with other neighborhood mothers, started up a pre-school at the College Park Woods Club House.
As the years passed, Anna became more involved in City politics and was elected to the City Council from 1981 to 1987, during which time, she led a fight against a proposed garbage incinerator which was to be installed next to her neighborhood. Never doing anything halfway, Anna researched the negative impacts of such a furnace and was successful in swaying her colleagues to oppose the incinerator noting potential health concerns.
In 1987, she was elected Mayor and was subsequently elected twice more serving until 1993. She immersed herself in the position studying College Park’s legislative history while following the political affairs in other local municipalities, the county and state. She was extremely proud she established strong, positive ties with the University of Maryland, then under the leadership of William E. “Brit” Kirwan. She kept a leather bookmark on a bookcase upon which the City of College Park and the University of Maryland—College Park emblems were intertwined with the following words below: “City of College Park Home of the Flagship Campus University of Maryland System”.
Anna always had an eye on the City’s independent living facility for seniors and persons with disabilities, Attick Towers. Following her tenure as Mayor, she was appointed to the Housing Authority Board for several years. When she was in her 90’s, she self-published “The Story of Attick Towers 1967-2012”, complete with an appendix of supporting documents. She provided copies to the Attick Towers, Executive Director; Board Members; the Mayor; and local community activists.
Over the years, her door was open to all City Councilmembers, especially the women, who sought her insight. Anna’s knowledge of political affairs, as well as her astuteness and forthrightness sent them away with new ideas and viewpoints to ponder.
Anna Latta Owens will be remembered fondly by those who knew her. She touched so many lives improving them with her measured thoughtfulness and caring.