PHOTOS BY TELLIER STUDIOS
City of Syracuse Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens’s story leading up to her lifelong journey as a public servant begins with how she was raised. She had a mother who believed that when God blesses you, you have to give back. Her mother also believed that one has to give to return on their blessings which can be considered an investment. One has to decide and strive to really be all in and be the best person that they can be for the people around them.
Deputy Mayor Owens is huge on mentorship. One of her favorite opportunities during her career has been mentoring the next generation. Sitting down with them so they can pick her brain and learn from her experiences. She especially enjoys mentoring young, black women in professional fields who may often times be the only women of color in the room they enter. She loves helping those women navigate being in executive or management positions in order for them to progress.
“We start in certain places, but it doesn’t mean we will finish there.” -Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens
Owens says “Be true to who you are .” As young professionals grow and develop in their personal and professional lives, they are being molded into the kind of person who will be able to do the things they are most passionate about, in the place that they’re supposed to do that work.”
Her journey has had a lot of different stops along the way so far. At each stop, she has gained experience. Being the deputy mayor is another stop along her journey that she is learning so much from. She doesn’t know where her journey will take her next, but she knows it’s going to be good. Every step she has ascended is because she, too, has been mentored.
Tammy : When we launched CNYWO Magazine, I wanted you to be our very first cover feature. Timing didn’t work out, but I am so glad we are sitting down and having this interview now. I think you are one of the most inspirational women in our community. There may be people who aren’t into politics , may not know everything you do or all of what goes on at City Hall, but for me, seeing a woman like yourself, having accomplished much, who can make change and looks like me, is powerful.
Sharon: Thank you ! I don’t see myself as a politician. Government is about service to me. I’m more focused on getting the work done for the people, but politics does play a role in government.
Tammy : Besides being Deputy Mayor, what other career positions have you had that have made an impact?
Sharon: I worked for Home HeadQuarters in the homeownership center. I was in a position that helped people at a very critical part in their lives. When we think about generational poverty, we think of financial stability as the first step toward home ownership. This is how generational wealth is passed along: you acquire property, whether it be land or a home, and you leave it for your descendants to inherit. I run into individuals whose parents still own the homes they were raised in. Those moments that I was able to help make are great.
Other positions I have had included working for Mayor Stephanie Miner. I’ve also worked at the Southwest Community Center, making an impact in providing services through one of the critical institutions in the community that I believe I was destined to be at. I was able to help stabilize the center financially. Helping to increase both the budget and programs.
Whatever role one has, whatever the calling is to one’s life, it should be their mission is to improve. Whether you stay at an organization or not, the next thing to focus on is always to be a better person.
“I am so optimistic and excited about the future of our community,” says Owens.
When I asked Deputy Mayor Owens who some of the women has she learned from currently or in the past are, she didn’t want to get into listing names, but off the record she listed many women from all races, ages and walks of life in Syracuse who she feels are extremely talented. She also shared that those women are making a mark in the community and that she is proud to know and have learned so much from them.
Taking on the role of her job, being a mentor, a community advocate, and a wife and mother, her friends remind her she has to find a balance. She has great family support, especially from her Husband. Carving out time for family is how she recharges.
Tammy: Why is it important to celebrate both Black History and Women’s History Month?
Sharon Owens: We should be celebrating the contributions of everyone, all throughout the year. We also have to take a moment to stop and pause, and recognize individuals of different demographics and their contributions because the history of this country hasn’t done that in a significant manor.
To be able to think about Black History Month and Women’s History Month is indicative of where we have come from, what we are doing, and where we are going . Central New York plays a huge part in the history of women and African Americans. Take a minute and pause to think about it.
We began to discuss our take on the Harriet Tubman film Harriet, and the impact Tubman has on Central New York. We won’t give spoilers, but we highly recommend people see the film if they haven’t.
Tammy : What do you want your legacy to be?
Sharon: I don’t want it to be about titles , titles mean nothing! I want my legacy to be about people who can look back and be able to say “When I needed something, I could call on Sharon to help me find my way.”
When you are called to do something that’s beyond you and your capacity, you have to rely on God. I can’t do anything on my own. The time for the city of Syracuse is promising, but at the same time there are a lot of people hurting. The burden of that can be overwhelming, unless you understand that you are not doing it alone and remain humble. You have to be empowered by God.
God has put me in a position and I will be held accountable. I’m not elected, I am appointed. It’s about service. I am here to help people. I am thankful I am working with a mayor who listens to my opinion. I bring a perspective that is unique. If the position you are in doesn’t scare you a little, you aren’t in the position you were meant to be in.