Al Howland for State House District 20
Education: BS Biology, Hobart College; MSEd, Northern Illinois University
Previous Elected Experience: Oyster River School Board 2012-2022, Durham Town Council 2016-2022
Past Committee Experience: Oyster River Negotiations Committee, Oyster River Wellness Committee, Oyster River Sustainability Committee, Oyster River Finance Committee, Durham Economic Development Committee, Durham Agricultural Committee, Integrated Waste Management Advisory Committee, Durham Parks and Recreation Committee, Durham Housing Task Force, Celebrate Durham.
Current Committees: Durham Housing Task Force, Durham Parks and Recreation Committee, Integrated Waste Management Advisory Committee, Celebrate Durham.
It is hard to believe that twenty-four years have passed since my wife and I moved from Oak Park, Illinois to Durham. We were drawn to the seacoast by its beauty and good schools. After completing her OB/GYN residency, my wife joined Garrison Woman’s Health and has had an opportunity to help the Dover community and has loved working there. I left teaching high school science to stay at home and help raise our three kids. I was lucky to have some remarkable volunteer opportunities in their schools that gave me the chance to experience an amazing school system. When the district hit a very rocky period in 2011, I ran for the Durham spot on the Oyster River School Board. Over the next decade, I had the privilege of working with a Board that encouraged collaboration between students, teachers, and administrators. We focused on implementing our strategic plan while encouraging new ideas and thoughtful discussions. This approach helped us produce some extraordinary opportunities for our students.
In 2015, I was asked by a friend to run for the Durham Town Council. The chance to learn how municipalities worked sparked my interest, and I was elected to the Council in 2016. During the next six years as a councilor, I worked on proposed zoning amendments to help address the current housing crisis, helped commission studies on the Oyster River Watershed used to decide the fate of the Mill Pond dam, and worked on making our solid waste program more sustainable. While the workload of "the double" (Town Councilor and School Board member) was challenging, it provided me with many opportunities to help Durham and the Oyster River School District work together.
A decade of working locally provided me with a first hand look at how state budgets and policies impact communities. Both the policies and the budgets have been been particularly hard on New Hampshire public school systems and spurred me to run to represent State House District 20. This large and diverse district includes Dover Ward 4, Durham, Lee and Madbury. It has four very different town governments and two school districts. Representing District 20 is a chance to use my experience to advocate for budgets and policies that support our communities. I have registered to be placed on the Democratic primary ballot September 13, and I hope to gain your support. If you have questions about my positions or experience, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the list of issues confronting local and state governments is long, here are four broad areas that I see as significant concerns:
The pandemic has been ruthlessly effective at exposing weak links in our public school systems. It put enormous stress on families and school staff and validated the need for the development of a data driven, multi-tiered social emotional and academic support system for all students. This has been challenging because implementing it requires adding staff. The state has made this much more difficult by downshifting employee pension contributions to local school districts. The lack of building construction aid has added to the local burden and shifted the cost of the Oyster River Middle School and the Dover High School onto local budgets. Adding to local districts' challenges while they struggled to keep students safe and engaged, the state passed a poorly-conceived Divisive Concepts law. Rather than fostering equity and inclusion to allow all students to succeed, it divides New Hampshire communities. These actions have added barriers that make it much more challenging for local districts to succeed. State polices and budgets need to support local districts.
Our country recently passed the grim milestone of 1 million Covid deaths. The entire healthcare system, including hospitals, providers, nurses, and support staff have been stressed beyond measure. As Covid numbers waxed and waned and then waxed again, it highlighted shortages of mental health care facilities and staffing needed to provide continuity of care. This point was tragically driven home by recent suicides at the Dover High School. Passing laws to outlaw abortion and restrict family planning choices undermine the goal of providing quality healthcare for women. We are the richest nation in the world with some of the worst outcomes for maternal and child health. We need common sense policies and laws that supports every person in the district to attain their best health, both physical and mental.
It is currently very challenging to find a place to live in the seacoast. The area is facing record prices for family homes, coupled with a very challenging rental market. This makes it very difficult to attract and retain workers that can live in our community. Restrictive local zoning codes and long Planning Board reviews can be an obstacle that makes the cost of adding workforce housing prohibitive. The recent Harmony Homes Cottage project in Dover is a great example of how local actions can creatively address these issues. Much more work needs to be done to fix the significant supply problem. Towns need help from Concord with planning, economic incentives, and infrastructure.
We have begun to experience increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change. While towns in the seacoast are working on plans to protect critical infrastructure and to prevent worst case scenario projections, they need help reducing their use of fossil fuels. The new Dover High School and Oyster River Middle School are great examples of local projects that help achieve this goal. Much more work is needed to provide access to renewable energy. State polices and incentives are needed to help increase wind and solar power generation capacity. The recent initiative to join some communities in a cooperative to buy renewable energy is hopeful and promising.