Riceboro native Kenneth Howard was named the new Hinesville city manager Tuesday afternoon. The announcement was made during a special called meeting at Hinesville City Hall’s council chamber.
The council and mayor voted unanimously to appoint Howard’s to the job.
“I am honored and humbled to have been appointed to this position and I am grateful for the mayor and council’s confidence in my ability to lead this great city,” Howard said. “I feel blessed not only for this opportunity, but for my wonderful staff who have worked tirelessly alongside me throughout this transition and for my family who have supported me as I embark on this new endeavor in my career.”
Howard’s wife Mavis, son Justin and grandsons Keon and Julian were present.
Howard has serving as interim city manager since August, after long-time City Manager Billy Edwards resigned amid controversy.
In 1987 Howard began working with the Liberty County Board of Assessors as a Personal Property Appraiser II. He came to the City of Hinesville in 1992 as Director of the Community Development Department and was appointed to the Liberty County Board of Assessors as a personal property appraiser. He came to the city in 1992 as director of the Community Development Department and was appointment assistant city manager in 1995.The newly appointed city manager's salary is $130,505.70.
Howard took a second to recognize the former city manager.
“Billy Edwards hired me 26 years ago and I am thankful for the opportunity to work for this city. But without Billy Edwards giving me that opportunity I would not have been here,” he said.
Howard said the situation regarding Edward’s departure has been difficult and caused the mayor and council to do some, “soul searching,” in an effort to become unified and move forward. He said city staff rose to the task, creating a positive and productive work environment. He credited city staff and city council for stepping up during the hard times.
“They had the will to come together as a community,” Howard said about the council and city employees.
Howard becomes the first African American to hold the position.
“I look at my grandsons… I wanted them to be a part of this… I wanted them to experience this because of the fact that their grand-daddy has done something that no other African American has done up to this point in the city,” he said. “That is not about me but it is about the process. Realizing that if you do the right thing, get your education, come back and give back to your community, then if you believe then you definitely can achieve.”
He said becoming the city manager was, “A pivotal time in my life.” He said after graduating from Bradwell Institute and Fort Valley State University, where he played football, he knew he wanted to return to Liberty County and give back in some way. More importantly he wanted to be here for his mom and dad.
“My mother is 83 years old now and I don’t know what I could’ve done without her,” he said. “She (Francis Howard) is my sounding board, as is my wife. They tell me some of the things I don’t want to hear. And that is very humbling to have someone who knows you better than most, and have them be there for you… and encourage you… but at the same time, keep things grounded for you as well.”
Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown said the choice to pick Howard was a “no-brainer,” after interviewing Howard and other finalists. The mayor said Howard’s experience and indepth knowledge of city matters was one reason. He said another reason was the way Howard handled the difficult transition during his time as interim manager.
“Kenneth has been instrumental in Hinesville’s growth and after watching him thrive as interim city manager, I know that our citizens will continue to greatly benefit from the impact of his exceptional leadership,” Brown said. “He is a great friend and colleague and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him and am eager for the bright future that lies ahead.”
Brown went on to say that Howard helped unify the city during the turmoil of Edward’s departure.
Howard said his first task is to fill in vacancy due to the recent transition. He said they will start searching for a new assistant city manager, a community development director and someone to fill his former role with the Hinesville Development Authority.
“I feel that economic development will be my first priority,” he said. “We have a tremendous opportunity here in terms of bringing in jobs and retailers and businesses as well. Right now we are poised to excel in that area.”