Photo by Corinne Nicholson
COVINGTON -- John Howard was praised as a consummate public servant and steward of the people's money at a retirement celebration held in his honor by the city of Covington on Friday evening at Turner Lake Complex.
Mayor Kim Carter called Howard a "true public servant."
"John, you're leaving some big shoes to be filled," she said, before presenting Howard with a plaque thanking him for his 16 years on the council. Howard's fourth term ended in December.
"I really don't have a lot to say except thank you to all of you who supported me over the years, especially the employees. No matter what I did, they really did support me," he said.
Howard also thanked his wife, Jean, noting that, "When I came home after the council meetings, she had the very brunt of my attitude."
Later, he brought his children and grandchildren up to the front.
"This is what it's all about: Family," he said.
Howard said he wouldn't accept a retirement gift from the city.
"They said, 'What do you need?' I said, 'I don't need anything.' They said 'Well, what do you want?' I said, 'I don't want anything. Save the city's money,'" he said, as the room erupted in applause.
Instead, the city wrote Howard a check for $200, the amount that would have been spent on a gift, which he promptly signed over to the Miracle League of Newton County, an organization raising funds to build a baseball field for disabled children.
Recreation Commission Chairman Tommy Hailey, along with Recreation Commission Chairman Johnny Presley and Miracle League consultant Tamara Richardson in turn presented Howard with a baseball signed by the organization's executive board, a Miracle League jacket and matching baseball caps and shirts for him and his wife.
"I think God puts people in our lives for a reason. You've made me a better man and I appreciate it," Hailey said. Howard has been a member of the Recreation Commission for two years.
Howard was also made an honorary police officer by the Covington Police Department, receiving a plaque with an authentic police badge on it.
"Can I issue tickets? Can I arrest anybody? Can I speed through the city?" Howard asked.
Assistant Chief of Police Almond Turner spoke on behalf of Chief Stacey Cotton, who had a prior engagement as the keynote speaker at a graduation at Troy State University.
Turner read a speech written by Cotton, who said early on, he was told Howard was "a bean counter" only interested in numbers, who questioned every purchase. Soon, however, Cotton came to realize that description wasn't accurate.
"I realized there was more to him than just numbers. He is a person who cares about people ... I found in John a man who would review the issue, call on me for clarification, ask questions and tell me truthfully how he really felt. I never had to wonder what John Howard wanted or what his issues were."
Former Mayor Sam Ramsey also sang Howard's praises.
"He made a tremendously good council person. The main thing I appreciate John for is his integrity. The one thing I'm real concerned about is who's going to vote against the budget? I don't think John ever saw a budget he liked," Ramsey joked.
City Manager Steve Horton said Howard is a shining example of what it means to be a moral man, noting that he is "someone who regularly places the concerns of others before his own needs."
"It's hard to be around a man like him without being changed yourself," Horton said.
As for how Howard will fill his Monday nights now that he won't be attending council meetings, he didn't have any problem deciding that.
Howard said he's been trying to expedite meetings for a long time so he could get home and watch the TV show "24."
"We're too old to learn how to tape it ... You thought I was retiring because I was getting old and wanted some of the youth to take over. That's not true," he said. "I'm retiring so I can be at home and watch '24.'"