Rick Howarth appointed as newest Sandpoint City Council member

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The Sandpoint City Council welcomed a new member April 17 with the confirmation of Rick Howarth to fill the seat left vacant by former-Council President Jason Welker, who stepped down in March to become the city’s new Community Planning and Development director.

“Jason leaves big shoes to fill,” Sandpoint Mayor Jeremy Grimm said before introducing Howarth, whom he said he’s known since 2007.

“Throughout this time, I have known Rick to be one of the most sincere, knowledgeable, respectful and capable humans I have had the pleasure to interact with in my lifetime,” Grimm wrote in a letter nominating Howarth to the council. 

Highlighting Howarth’s past experience in international business — including as a vice president at Intel Corporation — Grimm said, “He has managed budgets with many, many zeros beyond the city of Sandpoint’s budget.”

Rick Howarth. Courtesy photo.

Howarth retired in 2018 and has since served on the board of directors for Kinderhaven, as chair of the board for Lighthouse Foods and on the board of Valor Christian High School in Sandpoint.

Growing up in Great Falls, Mont. and educated at the University of Idaho, where he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and M.S. in mechanical engineering and material science, Howarth has a long association with Sandpoint — his wife, Debbie, being raised in Sandpoint and having graduated from SHS in 1978. 

After years spent traveling the world for work, the Howarths now live across the street from Debbie’s parents — Fred and Karla Darnell — in south Sandpoint.

“I am very humbled by this opportunity to serve the community,” Howarth told the council. “As Jeremy said, I’ve called Sandpoint ‘home’ for more than 42 years. … 

“It was always our hope and desire to come back to Sandpoint, to not only retire but raise our daughters,” he said, adding that they will soon graduate high school and depart for college in Indiana.

Speaking to the City Council on April 17, Howarth said that he accepted the nomination because, “I want to see if in my small way I can help guide the community so my daughters can come back to this community, which I love so much.”

In his letter, Grimm noted that Howarth’s “experience managing budgets of over $1.5 billion and thousands of employees will be invaluable to the city of Sandpoint as we move forward with what will be the largest public works projects in our history.”

Prior to the unanimous vote confirming Howarth’s nomination, Councilor Pam Duquette asked him what he thought would be the “biggest environmental concern” facing Sandpoint in the future, which he identified as management of runoff from the mountains into Lake Pend Oreille.

“What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the city in the next two years?” she asked, to which Howarth responded that the city’s master planning is “very ambitious” including numerous “hopes and wishes” that “come with a lot of very large financial commitments.

He stated that he would dig into the plans and assess which components are needs and which are wants.

Finally, Duquette asked how important Howarth viewed the environment when looking at development.

“I would say it is certainly a consideration,” he responded. “In any project of any scale it is always going to be a consideration. Would I say that is the highest priority — I can’t say that, it would depend on the particular situation and the particular activity.”

Howarth will serve on the council alongside Duquette, Councilors Joel Aispuro, Justin Dick and Kyle Schreiber, as well as Deb Ruehle, who was elected City Council president at the April 17 meeting.

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