Letter to the Editor, January 25, 2017: About Richard Bowen

By State Rep Ken Gordon

I have not known Rich Bowen as long as many of you.  But in the eight years since we met, I grew to know him well.  He was an inspiration and a source of steady counsel.  He was smart, funny, and he was committed to making Bedford a better place to live.  I enjoyed every moment of our friendship.

Last week we lost a treasure.  Rich Bowen passed away at 77 years young.  He never retired. He always moved forward.   He was feisty, opinionated and carried his special sense of humor right to the end.

I met Rich just afterMassachusetts re-elected its governor and I was interested in getting to know a little more about how our local democratic process worked.  I was directed to Rich, who was then the co-chair of the Bedford Democratic Town Committee, and I asked him how to join.

He reached into a duffel bag and pulled out a book.  Bill Clinton’s “Back to Work”. Rich smiled and looked at me. “Read this. Come back. And we’ll talk.”

Just a couple of years later, our district’s seat in the House of Representatives came open.  Rich called for a meeting of political activists in town.  “This would be a great opportunity for a person to do some real good,” he said.  “But, of course, that person couldn’t afford to live in Bedford.”

I surprised Rich when I answered his call to action, albeit only a few weeks before the primary election.  I told him I’d run for the opening, but he had to help.  I asked him to be ourCampaign Chairman, but he said he’d rather be treasurer, a job that involved exponentially more work.

I asked him if he had the time to devote to that challenge. “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” he told me. “The primary is three weeks away. You’ll be facing three opponents from a bigger town where nobody ever heard of you.  I can do this for a few weeks. Let’s table the discussion of whether you’ll need me any longer.”

Rich kept me organized for the next four years.

Rich Bowen loved to tackle the tough, complicated fiscal issues that faced our town.  He was a member of the Finance Committee for the last seven years, Capital Expenditures for six, and was on the Ad Hoc fiscal planning committees for a total of five years, most recently in 2014.  When we fought for state funding to reimburse the town for the education of the children of military families, Rich came to the State House to testify about its importance. He brought his concerns to me often, and all of them were directed at improvements for the fiscal condition our town.

Rich was smart.  He eschewed the sexy political topics of the day and grounded himself in detailed fiscal policy. He paid particular attention to the management of the town’s OPEB liability.  OPEB means Other Post-Employment Benefits. It is complicated.  But he broke down the issue in an understandable way. He loved Bedford and its people and he knew that if he could address complicated fiscal issues like this in a fair way, he could make our lives better. And he did.

Bedford is a better place because Rich Bowen lived here. I am a better person because I got to know him.  And we all should take a moment to appreciate Rich, and people like him, who devote so much of their time to find ways to make our lives better.

Rest well, my friend.

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