Howell gives back to the community
SCHUYLER COUNTY—“I find it amazing how influential parents can be,” said Jim Howell.
He was the youngest of four sons and credits his parents as shaping his life by instilling in him his moral compass and desire to help the community. Howell currently works for the Schuyler County Watershed Department.
He has been working for the county since 1974. Water has been a part of his job in way or another since he graduated from SUNY Delhi, after studying agricultural business.
Howell was also the watershed inspector for the town of Wayne, a food service inspector in Ithaca and an inspector for Tompkins County’s health department. While in Ithaca he went to college again for health services administration. To save money, he volunteered as a fire fighter so he could board at the fire station. His time working with Wayne is important to him because of Merton Plaisted, the supervisor at the time.
“He was very important to me,” said Howell. “Next to my father, he’s the greatest man I ever knew.”
Plaisted is one of the four most important people in Howell’s life. He also credits his father, Ronald Reagan and John Wayne; of who he has a full sized cutout in his office.
Since fire fighting in Ithaca, Howell has done a lot more volunteering.
“It’s a way to show appreciation,” said Howell. “Give back to the community.”
He is involved with Rotary, the Schuyler County Republican Committee, Schuyler Hospital, village planning board, fire department, the Arc and is an elder at the Watkins Glen Presbyterian Church. He also spends time serving as the master of ceremonies for auctions and parades, like the Village Christmas parade last Friday.
Howell said Rotary gives him and others the chance for worldwide service, fighting polio and sending students abroad. He is currently the chairman of Schuyler Hospital’s 2009 Annual Family and Friends campaign.
Over the years Howell has been working in the Finger Lakes he has seen many things change, notably the creation of many of the wineries.
“There wasn’t a single winery in Schuyler County,” said Howell, before the Farm Winery Act was passed in 1976. He added that people from outside the area think the wineries have been here for years.
A lot of grapes were grown, but they were then sent elsewhere to make wine, like Hammondsport. He said the early 1980s were a very tough time for town and village budgets, but the wineries grew.
Having jobs related to water, Howell has also seen the waste water regulations change significantly over the years. He explained how the waste treatment systems used to just dump the waste into the ground.
“It’s fun being somewhere where you can watch business evolve,” said Howell.
One big one is the Watkins Glen International race track. Back when the three main events were the Can Am, Trans Am and Grand Prix, WGI had around 35 wells on the hill trying to handle the waste. The expansion of the water district helped. He has also watched the Watkins Glen waterfront change. Howell remembers the dilapidated marina that used to be where the park is now.
His family now consists of his wife Bonnie, a Montour Falls village trustee, four children and two grandchildren. Restoring classic cars is a hobby for him. He also likes to collect outhouse paraphernalia.
“I have the largest collection of anyone you’ll ever meet,” said Howell.