- Vive Griffith
Amy Howard: Creating Opportunities in Port Townsend, WA
As a City Council Member in Port Townsend, Washington, Amy Howard is always seeking ways to equalize opportunities for members of her community. A graduate of Jefferson Clemente, Amy understands the value of removing barriers, particularly for those living on low incomes and seeking housing in an increasingly expensive city.
When Amy arrived in Port Townsend off the ferry from Seattle at age 18, she was homeless and addicted to methamphetamines. She left behind a life marked by abuse and drug use, and the move offered her a chance for a fresh start. She found that in a nonprofit called the Boiler Room, a coffee house and arts space with supportive programming for teenagers in need. It gave her the foundation she needed to start rebuilding her life. And there she learned about Clemente.
“At first I was afraid to even try learning because I was scared that my addiction had ruined my brain, but the academic director made it seem so interesting that I decided to try,” she says.
“Clemente was amazing. The subject matter was fascinating, and the teachers were engaging. Most importantly, I was surrounded by other people who also faced challenging circumstances but were equally engaged and wanted to learn. It was the catalyst that I needed to change my life.”
After Clemente, Amy continued taking college courses, ultimately earning a number of certificates, including ones in nonprofit management. She also went on to become the Boiler Room’s Executive Director. And she ran for City Council of Port Townsend—and won. She’s now serving her second term.
One of the issues she’s focused on is affordable housing, recognizing that stagnant wages and ballooning housing costs have made it hard for lower income people to stay in her community. “I get to advocate for zoning changes and changes to the housing code to remove barriers,” she says.
She also works directly on the issue in her role as Manager of Volunteer Engagement at Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, where she gets to collaborate with other people committed to improving their community. And she volunteers as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of OlyCAP, an organization that provides equitable access to resources and support for those who need it.
Today Amy dedicates her time—professionally, personally, and on the dais—to creating opportunities for her neighbors to build better lives. It’s a role she didn’t know could be hers when she first set foot in Port Townsend, and one Jefferson Clemente helped make possible.
“I actively encourage people to take this course anytime it is available to me to promote,” she says. “I firmly believe that it is a game changer.”