It is a long way from picking watermelons side by side with immigrant farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley to the House of Representatives.
It’s a journey Ted Howze wants to make for a lot of reasons.
Having worked in the fields growing up — his father was a temporary farm manager whose expertise was getting struggling agricultural operations back on even keel — and then later serving on the Turlock Planning Commission and the Turlock City Council Howze has developed an absolute commitment to protecting and developing the San Joaquin Valley’s water basin for what is the state’s struggling economic region. Howze sees how allowing water to be exported out of the basin and local water rights to be trampled would have dire consequences for valley farming and hundreds of thousands of jobs as well as the viability and sustainability of valley cities.
He needs no convincing healthcare reform is needed. Howze lost his first wife Sharon because an insurer refused to pay for a test a physician ordered arguing that it was impossible for a young woman to be suffering from heart disease.
He understands the value of education and how it can be used to secure a better life for people. And it’s not just because his wife Laura teaches at St. Mary’s High in Stockton where she has chaired the math department. Howze worked his way through the University of California Davis relying on income he made from working as an emergency medical technician to pay personal expenses, tuition and books so he could practice his chosen profession as a big animal veterinarian.
Howze has a firm grasp of the importance of brick and mortar business and e-commerce having operated both. He developed one of the first websites devoted to veterinary medicine sales that was eventually bought by a large corporation.
He also sees the need for the 10th Congressional District that encompasses a large chunk of the Northern San Joaquin Valley to have in its corner elected leaders who have a strong grasp of the impacts on the region such as having water taken out of its basin to support growth and a higher standard of living elsewhere to how being the de facto affordable housing solution for the Bay Area is hurting struggling families whose valley wages can’t compete with Bay Area wages in the housing market.
Howze on Sunday was at the San Joaquin County Fair campaigning for the 2020 election.
Howze wants to protect the valley
The fact the fair has its roots in agriculture and that the combined $6.1 billion crop production of the two District 10 counties of San Joaquin and Stanislaus would make it the 13th largest state for farming behind Georgia and ahead of Indiana isn’t lost on Howze.
“Steaks and potatoes don’t grow on circuit boards,” Howze said.
It is why he wants to do everything possible on the federal level to protect the unique Mediterranean conditions that exist only in four other places on earth besides the San Joaquin Valley. The combination of the Sierra range, mild climate and fertile allow the valley to grow the lion’s share of the nation’s fruit, vegetable and nut crops.
“We can’t afford to pave over every inch of the valley,” Howze said.
Howze, however, also understands the need for balance. He was a player in Turlock’s drive to develop an industrial park on the west side of the city. At the same time as a council member he became acutely aware of groundwater depletion.
It is why with the coming state mandate for groundwater stability — no more water can be pumped from an aquifer in a given year than is replenished — he sees it as an absolute must to stop any export of water via water sales out of the basin.
“Any excess water we may have needs to go to recharge our groundwater,” Howze said.
He gets the valley perspective that water taken from the basin fuels growth in other regions of the state such as the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Basin to the determent of valley cities, farms, and jobs.
Howze’s father’s career had him on the move growing up. His father managed farms on a temporary basis as far south as Arizona but ended up eventually concentrating on opportunities near Hanford.
“My earliest memories as a kid are working in fields,” he recalled. “I’ve done everything from picking watermelons to driving a cotton harvester.”
His experience growing up in the valley and working as a big animal veterinarian that involved caring for 90,000 head of cattle at various dairy operations, gives him a unique perspective on immigration.
Would push for path to citizenship after migrants work 5 years in the fields
While he does not favor blanket amnesty per se for all that illegally enter the country, he is a strident backer of citizenship for DREAMers — undocumented individuals who were brought into this country by their parents and that on average after 13 years of education taxpayers have invested more than $130,000 educating.
“They were brought here by no fault of their own,” Howze said.
At the same time he believes deporting DREAMers after educating them would cost this country a tremendously valuable resource.
Howze wants to see the visa program for agricultural workers expanded greatly. He’d push for a system where after five years of working as documented workers that a path for citizenship would be made available for such workers.
Howze credits his maternal grandmother Opal Sitton for installing a strong work ethic in him and his Hanford High football coach — “an African American gentleman” who moved from the South to the San Joaquin Valley by the name of Walt Parker — for fine tuning that work ethic.
“He emphasized a great work ethic without a goal is just hard work,” Howze recalled.
His coach inspired Howze — who played middle linebacker and pulling guard for the Hanford High Falcons — to eventually coach football at Denair High and then St. Mary’s High in Stockton.
Howze had saved enough money from working on farms and a grocery store box boy during summers to bankroll his first year at UC Davis.
“I understood the dangers of going into debt and I didn’t want to do it,” he said.
Howze was facing the prospect of dropping out his sophomore year before he landed a job at the campus fire department where he was trained as an emergency medical technician.
His fiscally conservative approach served him well when he was on the Turlock City Council from 2006 to 2010 dealing with the brunt of the Great Recession. He served on the council budget committee as well as the city representative to the Stanislaus Council of Governments.
He opted not to run for a second term when his wife fell seriously ill.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” Howze said, noting it allowed him to spend as much time as possible with his wife during her final years.
Howze and his wife had been active in various community endeavors when he was appointed to the Turlock Planning Commission where he served for six years before running for council.
He still has a large animal veterinarian clinic in Turlock — he sold an office he had for years in Escalon. Howze also had a brick and mortar business known as Mid-Cal Veterinarian Pharmaceuticals and launched VetMedicine.com.
Wants to make sure insurance companies never deny test or treatment doctors order for patients
His experience on the council made him realize how the San Joaquin Valley suffers proportionally when it comes to securing state and federal dollars for various endeavors compared to the heavily populated coastal regions. As such be believes that is an importance perspective for a congressman representing the district to have so they will work tirelessly to give them a voice.
“Healthcare is a big issue,” Howze said, who favors a major overhaul instead of simply seeking to implement universal coverage that he said would do absolutely nothing to address underlying problems that are making health care expense and not as pro-active as possible addressing patient needs.
“Doctors should never be denied a request by an insurer when they order a test or a treatment for a patient,” Howze said in his support of a patient’s bill of rights with real teeth.
He also wants to see innovations implemented such as expanding tele-medicine.
And while healthcare is an absolute priority, Howze said water needs to be the No. 1 focus when it comes to District 10’s unique needs.
Howze pointed out there is a misconception among some that District 10 has corporate farms.
“Almost all of the farms in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are family farms,” Howze said.
Of the 90,000 dairy cattle his veterinarian operation oversees all but two of the dairies are family owned.
Howze, who has three sons — Trey, 22, Trenton, 1, and Tynan, 19, is a Republican with fairly strong libertarian views when it comes to how much say the government should have in people’s day-to-day lives beyond basic government and the need to keep law and order.
“I am the little guy,” Howze said of his background and grasp of the day-to-day struggles of Northern San Joaquin Valley residents.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email [email protected]