FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2009
Austin, TX — Sine Die, the last day of the 81st Legislative Session on June 1, fittingly allowed Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. to honor long-time staff member and his Chief of Staff Paul Cowen, who is retiring after 20 years under his employ.
"Paul has been the most loyal employee and friend. His enormous contributions to state government and to the people of District 27 will never be forgotten," said Sen. Lucio. "His work has been exemplary and of the highest quality, and as one of the Texas Senate's most valuable employees, he will be greatly missed by all of us."
Sen. Lucio and Mr. Cowen, both Brownsville natives, go back a long way. His mother, Virginia Cowen, taught the young Eddie Lucio and several of his siblings English in Brownsville public schools.
Mr. Cowen operated Cowen Used Cars in Brownsville for 17 years. In 1989, he got a phone call from his childhood friend, Eddie Lucio, asking him to be his campaign manager for his initial run for Senatorial District 27. This highly contested race resulted in a runoff. Mr. Cowen took off full-time from his business to help in the campaign that got Sen. Lucio elected. Mr. Cowen returned to his business after a three-month absence to find no cars left on the car lot to sell and all of his salesman gone to other jobs. He began working in the House when the Senator was a Representative on July 1, 1990, shortly before then Rep. Lucio won election to the Senate.
This was an opportune time for both the Senator and his new assistant to work together on state issues, particularly those impacting South Texas. Paul joined Sen. Lucio's staff in the summer of 1989 and has been with him since.
Born Paul Charles Thomas Cowen on Aug. 31, 1949, he was the fourth child of 11 children. His mother, Virginia Cowen, taught many children English in the Brownsville schools, including a young Eddie Lucio Jr. and many of his brothers and sisters.
His father, Louis Raphael Cowen, was known as the “People Attorney” and in the evenings, he would tell his legal practice stories to his children. His stories frequently involved providing services to those in need. The young Paul learned his compassion and caring for others from his parents.
Even as a child, Mr. Cowen was a young businessman. He shined shoes on the streets of Brownsville, loaded and unloaded fruits and vegetables in the railroad yard, and by the time he was 18, he owned two gas stations.
In middle school, the youngster met a gentleman who became his mentor and lifelong friend, Mr. Raul Besterio, Jr.
It was through "Mr. B's" mentorship that he learned photography. By acquiring this skill in high school, he was awarded a full scholarship to Pan American University as the Sports Information photographer.
At a summer soccer game in college, Mr. Cowen, looking through the lens of his camera, spotted a woman across the field who captured his heart. He married Tamara Cowen 37 years ago, and the family now includes daughter, Tara Jean, married to David Rejino with one granddaughter, Isabella, Jonathan Paul married to Wendy Hopper, and Timothy Patrick.
The Chief of Staff put all of the skills he learned from his parents regarding compassion and hard work into his work at the Senate. He loved helping people and often went the extra mile to help constituents.
Over the years, he has assisted countless people with child support cases, worker's compensation, insurance problems, health issues, teacher problems, business licenses and many more. He has at one time or another contacted just about every state agency regarding a constituent. Part of his effectiveness as a Senate employee is that over the years, he made and maintained valuable contacts in all of these agencies. His name is known throughout all state agencies, plus most undergraduate and professional schools in Texas.
On December 14, 1995, Sen. Lucio and Mr. Cowen were driving down the Expressway in Harlingen when they witnessed a serious accident. While the Senator called 911, he got out of the car. Without any regard for his own life, he worked diligently to free a man trapped in a burning truck, getting burned himself. He was able to free the man after another good "Samaritan" stopped to help remove the door and the steering column with a chain he carried. For his heroic efforts, Paul was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the Texas Department of Safety to a civilian – The Director's Award.
Mrs. Cowen knows her husband's qualities well. She said, "The secret to Paul's effectiveness is his personal charm, persuasiveness, and genuine love of people. If you don't agree with him at the outset, give him a minute to change your mind. It won't be long before you see things his way. He always manages to find a common interest and share a personal anecdote."
"Paul Cowen plans to retire on August 31, 2009, but don't count on him disappearing from view. He will always be helping constituents and volunteering in my district office," added Sen. Lucio. "I look forward to a lot more for the betterment of society from Paul for many years to come."