Press Release 5/13/2021
We’ve wondered why our County Administrator Steve Howard recently withdrew from his Fort Myers Florida job hunt. He was a Fort Myers’ top four finalist out of over a hundred applicants when he withdrew his name just before the final interview. For several weeks after learning Howard was continuing his Florida quest, we quietly bit our tongue and held our breath while hoping Fort Myers would hire him. Then we puzzled over why he had once again withdrawn at the last minute.
Perhaps now we know the answer. It turns out that Steve Howard, who has been our Commissioners’ Spaceport Camden Project Lead for seven years, failed to mention the spaceport on his resume. Not. Even. Once.
The spaceport was not mentioned in his “Professional Experience” nor listed as a “Key Contribution.” It was not under “Professional Affiliations” where Camden taxpayers have paid his $16,000 annual membership as a Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation while he ‘directs’ the spaceport.
Howard did write about his selection in 2017 as one of Georgia’s Transportation Technology Game Changers but shrewdly omitted his selection was because of the work he was “doing to make Camden County America’s Commercial Gateway to Space.” Spaceport Camden failed to launch in Howard's four-page resume.
Did a Fort Myers citizen simply expose that Howard has nothing to show for the millions he’s spent in his current job without a spaceport budget or a real rocket company with an actual rocket to launch and with no end in sight?
The spaceport did not help Howard when he went job hunting in 2018 in Pinellas County, Florida, or during his 2019 interviews at Clay County, Florida, where he also “withdrew” his application at the final stage. Howard’s persistent job hunting shows he has been quite ready to leave the spaceport millstone around Camden taxpayers’ neck the moment he can find a new gig elsewhere.
Howard, and perhaps some of the Commissioners, knew millions of spaceport dollars ago that the spaceport project was an albatross that couldn’t fly. Remember when hapless Jason Spencer wasted two legislative sessions pursuing a law that protected launch companies from space tourist lawsuits if they died launching from Spaceport Camden? Those were heady days. Now, the spaceport depends on the FAA licensing fictional tiny rockets for the first time ever over the US public and a visitor-active national park. Howard’s legacy project has devolved into a liability for all of us, including the Project Lead himself.
We know from FAA emails that Howard and Jimmy Starline knew the extent of the problems way back in 2017. If the other Commissioners didn’t know about the problems, whose failure was that? Commissioners Lannie Brant, Ben Casey, Gary Blount, Chuck Clark, and Trevor Readdick now own the spaceport mess. Howard’s brazenness extends to his resume’s statement where he claims that he’s saved the County $10 million over the years, which coincidentally happens to be the amount he’s spent so far on the spaceport. By his accounting, the Spaceport quest is FREE! Most Camden property owners would rather have their taxes reduced.
At this point, Howard suggests that the real benefit of the spaceport won’t come from rocket launches (what happens to all the tourism-related jobs?) but rather from the mystery businesses that are supposedly clamoring to cluster around his spaceport. Even a modestly curious Camden County Commissioner could have discovered by now that commercial spaceports, even those with rockets, are not high-tech factory magnets.
Spaceport Camden will remain a taxpayer liability long after Howard skips Camden County.