John Howard always said he would remain active after retiring from the city council, but he didn’t ever expect it be in the form of Covington’s newest police officer.
At the end of Friday’s celebration in honor of Howard’s 16 years of service on the city council and his support of public safety, Assistant Police Chief Almond Turner named Howard an honorary police officer and handed him a real badge.
"Can I issue tickets, can I arrest anybody and can I speed through the city?" Howard asked afterward.
City employees, fellow council members and longtime community members came to Turner Lake Complex to celebrate the city career of Howard. The one thing they all had in common was their friendship with Howard.
"I'm really humbled by so many people that came out today. I thank all of the employees of the city that came and
all of my other friends, and I do say friends that came today," Howard said. "I do appreciate this, honestly I do. I really don’t have a lot of words to say except thank you to all of you who have supported me over the years especially the employees."
The city showed its appreciation by giving an honorary plaque and a monetary gift to Howard, who then turned around and immediately made a donation to the Newton County Miracle League Project.
"They came to me and said ‘What do you want?’ I said ‘I don’t want anything.’ ‘What do you need?’ ‘I don’t need anything.’ So we went round and round about that," Howard said. Always the fiscal conservative, he finally replied: "I said save the city’s money. They wouldn’t hear of it."
Instead, the city gave its customary gift in a form that Howard could easily pass on to a project he cared about. In return, Miracle League representatives gave him a Miracle League shirt, hat and baseball signed by the executive committee.
"So you can promote the Miracle League while you walk around town," said Tamara Richardson, who is helping with the project.
Newton County Recreation Director Tommy Hailey and its Chairman Johnny Pressley, who both also work with the Miracle League, thanked Howard for his donation as well as his years of service on the recreation board.
"God puts people in your life for a reason. You made me a better man and I appreciate that," Hailey said.
How Howard touched the lives of those around him was a common theme among Friday night’s speakers. Fellow council members Mike Whatley and Hawnethia Williams both thanked Howard for being a guide to them when they were first elected.
"When I got here I was green, nervous, scared I was even scared to raise my hand to vote a lot of times," Whatley said. "Right at the beginning I would meet with John and we would discuss not necessarily how to vote on issues, but how to be a representative of the people of this city. He taught me a lot about that."
Fellow Council Member Janet Goodman and former Mayor Sam Ramsey talked about how much they enjoyed working with Howard during all of his 16 years.
"John is one of those people who go into everything in detail and when he said this is OK, it was OK. He made a tremendously good councilperson … the main thing I appreciate John for is his integrity," Ramsey said. "I’m just really concerned about one thing, and I don’t know who is going to do this now. Who is going to vote against the budget. I don’t think John ever saw a budget he really liked."
Goodman said he was caring and capable and compassionate … about numbers. She said they were friends from the first day they met.
"You are my fried forever, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it," she said.
But it was City Manager Steve Horton who talked about how much true friendship can really mean.
"The thing I want to say about Mr Howard is that it’s hard to be around a man like him without being changed yourself. For those of us, like me, who spend a lot of time woking away from families and loved ones, he lived the example. When we talk about the importance of family, he lived that example," Horton said. "He’s been more than a city council member, and I’ve been more than a city manager. Mr. Howard has been a friend, a true friend … I love you Mr. Howard. I really do."
Howard proved Horton’s words to be true by celebrating his retirement with his loving wife of many years, Jean, as well as his children and children-in-law. Now that’s he’s retired he hopes to spend all that much more time with them, that is, if Jean will let him.
"The only thing I’m retiring form is the city council. I still work three days as week," he said. "I do that because Jean wants me to get out of the house.
"Thank you all from the bottom of my heart."