Howard chosen as Grant Countian of Year

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By Bryan Marshall

Shirley Howard turns 72 in June, but the Williamstown resident won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

“I have to be busy,” he said. “That’s why I’m still working. I want to keep active physically and mentally. I have no immediate plans to retire permanently.”

From educator to county judge-executive, Howard’s life has been filled with a laundry list of accomplishments.

One more was added recently when Howard was named the 2009 Grant Countian of the Year at the Grant County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

“I was thrilled and humbled very much that I had been chosen,” he said. “I’d known most of the people who had been chosen in past years and their accomplishments. I was honored to be grouped with them.”

Howard moved to Grant County more than 50 years ago after graduating from the University of Kentucky.

As an agriculture teacher at Grant County High School, Howard started a new program in horticulture and served as head of the vocational department.

He also wrote a college textbook called “Home Beautification” to be used at UK.

Bill Courts, who taught agriculture with Howard for 23 years, described him as as “easy going” and a “very intelligent person.”

“Mr. Howard always had a bubbly personality about him,” Courts said. “He was always cheerful. He kind of passed that along to his students. I couldn’t  have had a better cohort to work with.”

Dubbing Howard as Mr. Greenhouse, Courts said that he sold a lot of vegetable plants in the county.

Courts said he still communicates with his former colleague through e-mail occasionally.

“Ag teachers kind of stick together a little bit,” he said. “We kind of have our own fraternity. We check on each other. We worked year round. We went to camp together and teacher’s conferences.”

Howard retired from teaching in 1990 after being an educator for 32 years and only missing three days of school.

He opened up a dog grooming business with his wife Marilyn called Beaus and Belles.

The business began out of the couple’s basement after Howard went from clipping his poodle to his friends’ dogs.

He served on the Williamstown City Council from 1992 to 1994 before becoming Grant County Judge-Executive for five years.

During his tenure, he provided seed money for 59 miles of water line extension, implemented countywide 911 dispatching, budgeted money for a feasibility study for the Williamstown Lake expansion and adopted an ordinance governing planning and zoning.

“In the political realm, I met a lot of wonderful people,” Howard said. “I had some experiences that were once in a lifetime. I was able to sit down and talk one-on-one with governors, which was quite a honor, I think.”

Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link served as magistrate for five years under Howard.

“Shirley is a man with great integrity,” Link said. “He was very deserving of the award. Whatever Shirley would tell you, you could take to the bank. I always thought he worked in what he thought was the best interest of the county. He certainly has been a dedicated public servant to the people in this county for many years. He was always a person we looked up to and is deserving of our respect.”

Grant County building inspector Terry Conrad remembers Howard as a good, understanding boss who would always go to bat for his employees.

Conrad also recalled how Howard was always on the move.

“If you walk with Shirley, you better get ready to go at a dead run because that man could walk faster than anybody I know of,” he said. “You can’t keep up with him.”

Howard has three sons, Keith, Dale and Brian.

His eldest son, Keith, is band director at Gallatin County High School.

Dale is a business analyst for Sonic Automotive in Las Vegas, but still talks to his mom and dad every Sunday night.

Brian, who nominated his dad for Grant Countian of the Year, has worked for Toyota Manufacturing Company in Georgetown for 18 years.

“Shirley Howard is not only a wonderful educator, a dedicated worker and volunteer in the community, but is also an extraordinary kind and patient father, grandfather, father-in-law, husband and friend,” wrote Brian in his nomination letter. “(He) has been an outstanding example of what a Grant Countian can do for their community.”

Howard was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Northern Kentucky chapter of the University of Kentucky Agriculture Alumni Association, which also honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He also served on Grant County Fair Board for 30 years and still judges competitions.

Howard serves as an elder at Fairview Christian Church.

“He has impacted the lives of numerous individuals as teacher and church leader throughout his career,” said minister Wayne Rice.

With more than enough work to fill a lifetime behind him, Howard still continues to be active.

He is on the Board of Trustees for St. Elizabeth Medical Center and attends luncheons for the Grant County Retired Teachers Association.

Despite working a full-time job as a customer service representative for the Internal Revenue Service, Howard has met a group of friends for coffee every weekday morning for  about 30 years.

“When I was teaching, I told myself that one of these days I was going to retire and try several things,” Howard said. “As a teacher, I tried to get my students to accomplish all that they can.”