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Margie's Memories: Retired Village Employee Reflects on Four Decade Career

July 22, 2019 (ORLAND PARK, IL ) - When Margie Owens-Klotz started working for the Village of Orland Park in 1977, Jimmy Carter was president, Melvin Doogan was mayor, Orland Square had been opened for a year, and less than 10,000 people lived in the town.

Owens-Klotz recently participated in the village’s early retirement program, stepping down from overseeing the public relations for the village and witnessing four decades of village history.

“I started as a junior day camp counselor in the summer of 1977 when I was in high school,” Owens-Klotz said. “The Recreation Department wasn’t officially formed until a year later, in 1978.”

Owens-Klotz returned as a summer clerical employee in 1980 and was the first dispatcher for the village’s bus service. She returned as a permanent part-time employee in 1981 and worked for the village while going to school until 1987 when she received her master’s degree.

“I was Orland Park’s first intern and was the second female staffer to have a master’s degree,” Owens-Klotz said. “When I was in school, I worked in every village department except for the police,” she said.

Owens-Klotz created the village’s Office of Public Information as the thesis for her master’s degree and was named Orland Park’s first public information officer in 1987.

During her nearly four decades with the village, Owens-Klotz has worked with four elected mayors and two acting mayors. She has worked with every village manager since the council-manager form of government was approved by referendum in 1983.

“Each mayor brought his objectives to the office and that was the lead that we followed,” Owens-Klotz said referring to working within six different administrations over four decades.

Along with Orland Park’s huge growth during the 1970s, Owens-Klotz witnessed a number of village milestones.

“Lake Michigan Water came to Orland Park in 1985. Before that, we had to post on Cox Cable when wells nine and 11 ran so people knew not to use the well water,” she said. “The Village Center Complex debuted in 1989 and Orland Park celebrated its centennial in 1992. The Sportsplex opened in 2002 and the first Taste of Orland Park was held in 2004. The village stepped up its presence on social media in 2012 and Orland Park’s first museum opened in 2016.”

“I was blessed to witness many parts of Orland Park’s history,” Owens-Klotz said. “So many things happened over the last 40 years that make Orland Park the premier community that it is today.”

Among her favorite memories was the 1987 saving of the 1898 Twin Tower Sanctuary of the Methodist Church.

“It was during a village board meeting at the Beacon Avenue village hall that the pastor of the church asked to demolish the Twin Towers to expand the parking lot,” Owens-Klotz said. “What he didn’t know was the mayor was a high school social studies teacher who was a recognized authority on Chicago history.”

“My dad listened to the pastor ask to tear down the local landmark and responded with, ‘over my dead body’,” Owens-Klotz said. “The pastor said, ‘If you want it you can have it’, and my dad said back, “If it would fit in the trunk of my car, I’d take it home with me tonight.”

The village board denied the demolition and later created the Old Orland Heritage Foundation, a third-party group to oversee the sanctuary’s restoration and operation. The sanctuary was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the late 1980s with the building restored and re-dedicated on May 3, 2002.

A highlight of Owens-Klotz’s village career was representing the village on the national award-winning CART/LAAP Committee (Combined Agencies to Reduce Trauma/Local Alcohol Awareness Program).

“CART/LAAP was created by the Orland Fire Protection District and included organizations working together to educate the public on the importance of safety belts and the hazards of drinking and driving,” Owens-Klotz said. “The committee included village, police, fire, hospitals and others sharing first responders’ perspectives with student body presentations at area schools.”

In 1990, the group produced its award-winning docudrama, “Shattered Lives-Shattered Dreams,” that was used by driver’s education programs across the country and received the United States Department of Transportation Public Safety Award.

“Three graduate students from Governors State produced the 30-minute movie for their final student projects,” Owens-Klotz explained. “The movie followed a story line created by an Orland firefighter and included all volunteer actors and our member agencies providing personnel, equipment, settings and everything else for the movie that told the story of a family devastated by drunk driving.”

“My involvement with CART/LAAP will always be one of my favorite village memories,” Owens-Klotz said. “Those were some of the best public servants I’ve ever met and I met my husband because of CART/LAAP.” Owens-Klotz is married to retired Orland Fire Protection District Lieutenant Gerry Klotz.

Longtime Orland Park Village Treasurer Franklin Loebe is also a big part of Owens-Klotz’s memories.

“Franklin Loebe served as treasurer for 65 years – from 1929 until 1994,” Owens-Klotz said. “He was one of the longest serving officials in state history,” she said.

Loebe was born on the second floor of the General Store that still stands on Union Avenue. His father and uncle opened Loebe Brothers General Store in 1898 and the store remained in the family for several years.

“Franklin was born the same day as the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. When Mayor Ralph Jennings asked Franklin to become treasurer in 1929, Franklin didn’t want to take another man’s job. He told me he wanted to be sure that the Archibald Kay, the railroad ticket agent, no longer wanted to be treasurer,” Owens-Klotz said. “Franklin was studying accounting and his family had the only adding machine in town and I believe they had the first television."

Loebe was an accounting major at Northwestern University where he played in the school band and played at one of the first games ever played at Soldier Field. “Franklin was in the NU Band when they played Notre Dame and Knute Rockne and the four horsemen were on the field,” Owens-Klotz said.

“My saddest village memory is when my dad, who was mayor, died in office. He was 54 years old when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in January and died in May during the 1992 Centennial Celebration.”

Owens-Klotz’s father, the late Mayor Frederick Owens, served as a village trustee from 1979 until 1985 when he was elected mayor and served until his death in 1992.

“The village hall was draped with purple bunting and flags all over Orland Park flew at half-staff. Orland Park gave him a beautiful send off. More than 5000 people came to his wake at Lawn Funeral Home and his funeral mass at St. Michael was packed,” Owens-Klotz said.

Prior to leaving the village hall, named for her father in 1993, Owens-Klotz sorted through years of files, sending boxes of items to the village’s history museum.

“I had 40 years of Orland Park history in my office,” Owens-Klotz said. “I started sorting my files last fall and sent six boxes of history to the museum including copies of Village Treasurer Franklin Loebe’s 1906 birth certificate and his marriage license that he gave me in the late 80s.”

“I’ve worked with some amazing people over the past 40 years,” Owens-Klotz said. “Of course, my favorite was my dad because he had a true passion for Orland Park. He was a Chicago high school teacher who loved government and loved serving the people of Orland Park.”

The late mayor taught at Chicago’s Hubbard High School for several years and many of his former students live in the Orland Park area.

“When former students would visit the village hall, they’d see my dad’s picture on the wall and tell the receptionist that he was their teacher,” Owens-Klotz said. “I met people who were in my dad’s classes from the 60s through the late 80s. A few times, I had grown men sobbing as they told me what an impact my dad had on them.”

Nationally, employees stay with a job for less than 10 years. Being with the same organization for 40 is a novelty.

“I stayed to be near my kids. I was lucky to have a job that I loved close to home. With both of us working in town, my husband and I were able to volunteer for both of our kids’ activities, all of their sports and spent years in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.”

Owens-Klotz’s husband, Gerry, retired from the Orland Fire Protection District in 2014 after 35 years of service. They have two adult children, Stephanie, 30, who works in advertising, and Timothy, 19, a college student.

“I’m very proud that the Public Information Department was able to use every imaginable free source of promotion to share what was happening in Orland Park,” Owens-Klotz said. “I began promoting the village on a typewriter in the 1980s and left it reaching thousands via social media.”

Owens-Klotz will remain busy in retirement having been hired as an adjunct professor at two area colleges. She will also have more time for Owens Media, Inc., a marketing company formed with her daughter and her sisters.

“Transitioning from the village to the private sector has been exciting. I’m able to use decades of knowledge that have evolved over the years to help our clients share their stories.”

“Owens Media includes some of the best media people in the Chicago area – writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, social media experts --- who deliver the messages of businesses, individuals and organizations,” Owens-Klotz said. “We have an amazingly talented team that includes our resident millennial, my daughter, Stephanie.”

Owens-Klotz has worked for the village for both of her children’s entire lives. Both children often helped at village events, volunteering, taking photos and hosting cable television segments.

“Thinking of my best village memories is hard because my mom has worked for the village my entire life,” said Stephanie Owens. “I remember as a kid laying out the pages of the village newsletter with her and rubber cementing them to the card stock to take them to the printer. I swore up and down that I would never follow in my mom’s footsteps yet here I am, working in advertising,” said the younger Owens.

“Overall, my favorite memories are all of the experiences that led me to my career. My mom laid the foundation by teaching me everything she knew. She’s the toughest director I’ve ever worked with because she expects more from me and knows what I’m capable of.”

With both parents working in local government, the Owens-Klotz children grew up with firsthand perspectives of municipal services.

“Every special event in Orland Park was like ‘Take Your Kids to Work Day’ since my brother and I worked for free, which wasn’t always by choice,” Stephanie Owens said smiling.

“As Orland Park grew, so did our mom’s work load and she was the only person in her department for a long time. We had a lot of cool experiences like meeting Tony Hawk when the Grinding Edge Skate Park opened to when then U.S. Senator Barack Obama was here for Veterans Day,” Owens said.

“As kids, we took it for granted because it was normal for us to visit the firehouse and the police station but as we got older, we realized that most kids didn’t get to experience all of this. We’re lucky to have the parents that we do. The hard part was – no matter where we went – there was always someone who knew our parents so we couldn’t get away with anything,” she said.

Stephanie Owens works in advertising full-time and helps her mom with Owens Media.

“I’d like to see Owens Media grow and for my mom to be able to follow her passion projects in retirement and spread her wings beyond the Village of Orland Park. We look at things differently --- she’s more analytical and I’m more artistic --- and I really enjoy working with my mom. I’m excited to be along for the ride. My hope is that Owens Media continues to grow and when my mom fully retires one day, I’ll be able to take the helm.”

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