Rod Howe has just finished his first month as Ithaca Town Supervisor — which for him, amounts to a natural next step in a series of public service positions spanning more than a decade.
Howe was elected last November, and took office on Jan. 1.
Being a leader in the Town of Ithaca is nothing new for Howe, who previously served on the planning board of the Town of Ithaca for ten years, and on the town board for six years. He also served as the executive director of the History Center of Tompkins County for four years.
As town supervisor, Howe plans to focus more proactively on economic development than the Town Board has in the past.
According to Howe, the board is ready to adopt a new neighborhood code that focuses on creating more commercial and residential areas in the town. The three areas targeted for this enhanced development include parts of West Hill, East Hill Plaza and the King Road and Danby Road intersection on South Hill, he said.
With Howe at the helm, the town board will be working with the City of Ithaca to figure out their own version of the City’s Green New Deal, passed last November, The Sun previously reported.
In keeping with that goal, for the past two years, the Town Board has been discussing measures to regulate energy use in new buildings, and will seek approval from both City Council and the Town Board later this spring to do so, Howe said.
The City’s Green New Deal aims to reduce emissions from the city’s vehicle fleet by 50 percent, and to fulfill the government’s electricity needs entirely through renewable energy –– both by 2025, according to the policy’s webpage.
Though the City of Ithaca and the Town of Ithaca are two separate municipalities, the two governments plan to work closely together on their respective versions of the Green New Deal, Howe said. The Town of Ithaca surrounds the City of Ithaca.
“We’re still figuring out what our version of the Green New Deal is,” Howe said.
Aside from these policy topics, Howe and the Town Board are focusing on planning a celebration for the town’s bicentennial, in 2021.
Howe sees his job as a “point entry for residents and citizens” of the town. “It’s a mix between politics and management,” Howe said of the Supervisor position. He said that many members of the public reach out directly to the Town Supervisor, though much of his job involves directing concerns to the appropriate department head within the town’s government.
Howe’s years of experience in the Ithaca government have left him feeling extremely well prepared for the job.
“There’s really been nothing surprising,” Howe said of his first month.
Howe is a native of Lansing, New York, and previously worked with the Cornell Cooperative Extension. He was also the executive director of Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute.