Howard: Brings wealth of experience to table

If Beauregard Burgess, 30, represents the Millennial generation of Homer City Council candidates, Robert “Bob” Howard, 73, anchors the cusp of the Baby Boomer end. Born in 1944 in Turlock, Calif., he went through one of the quintessential experiences of his generation, the University of California at Berkeley Free Speech movement in 1964. Howard attended UC Berkeley then, but was a clean-cut engineering student.

“I never protested. I was just a quiet farm boy trying to get an education,” Howard said. “I totally skipped the hippy era.”

Howard grew up in Delhi, Calif., number four of nine children. His family ran a dairy farm and he grew up with no indoor plumbing. After graduating from Livingston Heights High School, he went to UC Berkeley. At that time the state of California was looking at several major water projects.

“I thought, man, if there’s anything California really deals with, it’s water,” Howard said. “I’m going to become a hydrological engineer.”

Howard worked his way through college. In 1964, exhausted from working and studying, he dropped out for a while and ran the family dairy farm. He also married and had two children. Uncle Sam almost disrupted his plans when Howard got drafted, but he failed a military physical. He returned to San Jose State University, California, graduating in 1968 with a bachelor of science in engineering. 

After graduation he worked for the Santa Clary Valley Water District. Later he became Public Works Director and City Engineer for Morgan Hill, Calif., and then Chief of Operations for the water district, working there 18 years total. He also worked as a general building contractor. His last job before retiring in 2003 was as president of CDS Technologies, a storm water environmental engineering firm. 

“I’ve had a wonderful life experience. I didn’t do much of anything twice,” Howard said.

Howard met his second wife, former Homer City Council member Barbara Howard, when she was City Clerk and he was City Engineer in Morgan Hill. They married in 1987. Together they have six children. Howard first came to Alaska in 1991 on business and then did some fishing in Soldotna. He heard about Homer and came to visit.

“I came around the bluff. I thought it was the most spectacular view I’ve seen in my life, and I still think that,” Howard said. “I never dreamed I’d live here.”

The Howards began coming to Homer for vacations twice a year. In 2000 he bought a boat in Homer, the Sea Nymph, and then in 2001 he began running a sport-halibut charter business. He served in 2007 as vice president of the Alaska Charter Association, a sport charter fishing advocacy organization, and then as president in 2007-2008. The Howards also bought a vacation home in Homer.

In 2004, they said to each other, “We have no business running two properties. What should we do? Sell the California one,” he said. “We moved here and never looked back.”

Howard comes to running for city council the way many others have started, gaining city experience on commissions. He served from 2006-2007 on the Economic Development Commission and on the Port and Harbor Commission since 2010. He also worked on the Sewer and Water Rate Task Force from 2012-2013.

Howard said when he thinks of the role of local government, he thinks of the city council.

“That’s your local government. Their role is to carry out through the staff they hire — i.e. the city manager — the wishes of the public they have been elected to serve,” he said.

The core functions of local government are “the services that are best provided for the collective group that cannot necessarily be done by an individual,” Howard said.

That means police and fire protection, water and sewer, and transportation. Beyond that are the services the majority of the people want and are willing to pay for, he said.

“Therein lies the rub. … We can generally agree on the essential services,” Howard said. “There are other things you’re lucky to get 51 percent. It’s not as clear cut as the essential services.”

Howard said he’s running for council to give back to the community.

“I think I have a wealth of experience I can bring to the table,” he said. “I’m retired. I have the time to commit.”