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State House District 40: Pam Howard says 'We should be focused on infrastructure, education, health care'

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Pam Howard

Pam Howard

“If you build it, they will come.” 

Democrat Pam Howard is sending that message to Alabama’s District 40 in her race for state representative. Incumbent Republican K.L. Brown, who defeated her in 2018, is retiring from the state House. 

Accordingly, the 63-year-old mother of three and grandmother of five said she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work on the district’s infrastructure, education and workforce needs. 

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Howard is no stranger in the way of carpentry and building things. 

“I love carpentry. I’m a pretty good carpenter,” Howard said. “I can do flooring. I can do yard work, landscaping, anything like that. I love anything hands-on.”

Got a hole in your drywall? Howard can fix that. She’ll walk you through it, and then afterward, you can call her up and talk about public roads and bridges.

“One of the things I’m most excited about in running right now is that all that infrastructure money is coming from the federal government,” Howard said. “Regardless of how you feel about what party — who did it — whatever. It’s coming.” 

Howard said there are parts of Alabama — such as Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville — that are booming because elected officials take those dollars home to their communities and recruit industry. 

“Nobody is doing that in east Alabama and hasn’t,” Howard said. “I attended a legislative update a couple of weeks ago that was held by the Chamber of Commerce and the comments from our current elected officials were, ‘We don’t have a workforce, so let's invest in bridges and Mobile,’ and that’s not the answer.”

Howard said she isn’t willing to let that be the end of the conversation. She’s determined to bring those federal dollars home and build up the district the way other Alabama cities have.

Howard believes education is partially to blame for the lack of economic success. She said Alabama ranked 50th in reading, 47th in math, and 47th in overall education, and those numbers have a big effect on the success rate of attracting new businesses to the area.  

“Why would you move a business here if you can’t get quality education for your kids and you can’t get quality health care for your family?” Howard said. 

Howard said she wants to not only develop better systems for school age and four-year degrees, but also for trade education. She said better infrastructures require workers — electricians, carpenters, plumbers and IT people.

“I spoke with a group at JSU of students just before the holidays, and it was so sad to me because they were bright young people who had really clear visions of their future, but when I asked them how many of them intended to stay here for their future, not one raised their hand,” Howard said. “And that’s heartbreaking to me.” 

Howard said a few years ago she and her husband each bought motorcycles and rode all over the state. She said she fell in love with Alabama. 

“We have the second most diverse ecosystem on the planet — and that’s Alabama,” Howard said. “We have such beautiful waterways and mountains, and everything you can imagine — from beaches all the way to mountains to little river canyons. It’s so beautiful here.”

Howard said Alabama should be one of the prime spots in the country, but “we can’t keep our roadways clean and we can’t develop things and have a place where you can stop and get online if you’re lost.” 

Howard said those are the building blocks she wants to establish. She said this area, right between Birmingham and Atlanta, has the potential to be one of the biggest booming areas of the state. 

“We just need people to believe that and work on it,” Howard said.

Since the last election in 2018, Howard has stayed active in the community and stayed involved in local issues. She is the current president of the executive board for Second Chance, and a board member for Great Things in Jacksonville. She and her husband have also owned a security business called “Protect Security” in Calhoun County for  the past 22 years. 

An Alabama resident since 1996, Howard said she was recruited here by her workplace at the time where she worked as a “consumer response analyst.” She said her primary role was to negotiate issues before they turned into lawsuits and to develop programs for employee retention. 

Howard studied business at Palm Beach Community College and programming — which is now called “coding” — at the University of New York. 

“My heart is in this. I want to do a good job. I want to help move Alabama forward,” Howard said. “I’m one of those people that cannot just sit home and complain about things if I’m not willing to step up and be part of the solution.”

Asked what the next step was and if she would consider running for a federal office, Howard said she wasn’t looking to spend the rest of her life in office. 

“I am a strong proponent for term limits,” Howard said. “I’m 63 years old and I’m not trying to start a new career. I’m trying to start a path for more young women or young serious people who want to move into government and I think when you sit in those offices for 20 or 30 years, you lose touch with your community.”

Howard said her goal is to get young people inspired to love the state, and want to make change the way she does.

“It’s time to get back to the government doing the things that people can’t do for themselves,” Howard said. “We should be focused on infrastructure, education, health care, things like that. Not legislating how people should live their personal lives.” 

Howard is having a launch party on the last day to qualify, Jan. 28, at the Jacksonville Train Station. She said there will be food, live music and fun, and invites the community to come join her in kicking off the 2022 election year.