Village board will have to decide how to fill vacant executive position
Belgium Village President Richard Howells will be stepping down effective Nov. 25, citing personal reasons.
Howells has been president for four and a half years and was re-elected in April to a third two-year term.
“It’s a reprioritization of my life,” he said. “There’s a lot of things going on personally.”
The Village Board may appoint one of its trustees to fill out Howells’ term or hold a special election next year. The timing of Howells’ resignation is key in that leaving before Dec. 1 allows a special election to be held in April. A resignation after Dec. 1 moves the election to November.
Howells said he and his wife, Helen, will continue to live in Belgium. He is working on an overdue project he promised his wife. He told his wife it would take him 10 years to install a wooden floor in the middle of their trilevel home.
“This January is 21 years,” he said.
Howells’ new promise is by Christmas, and he said he’s on schedule. He is making the flooring himself from old barn wood.
“It’s not a real small project,” he said.
Nor was serving as village president. Howells, who moved to Belgium in 1995, said he got involved nearly five years ago because he wasn’t happy with how the village was being run.
“If I see something I don’t like I don’t talk about it. I’ve got to jump in there and get involved,” he said.
Howells said he is proud of a few things the village has accomplished the past few years, the most noticeable being the 1-year-old village hall. He said he worked to persuade the rest of the Village Board to accept a donation from Michael and John Ansay for $600,000 for construction of the building.
“Those were personal checks,” Howells said, “not business checks.”
In addition to construction costs being donated, Howells said the building is saving money on energy. Electricity costs, he said, on the 3,500-square foot building are one quarter of what the village paid for in the much smaller former village hall, a 1,400-square-foot corner of the fire station.
“I pushed for LED lights for efficiency,” he said.
Financially, he said, the village is in better shape than when he was first elected. He said he pushed to make sure the annual budgets were sent to the county on time, and he said they have been every year he has been in office.
Beyond that, Howells said he focused on openness and transparency, and he dissolved the village’s “good ol’ boys” network.
“I was very adamant to get rid of that,” he said.
Like many elected officials, Howells came in “blind” nearly five years ago. He said he thanks the village staff for its support and for educating him.
“They were extremely patient,” he said. “It’s an eye opener as to what happens behind the scenes.”
While Howells said he now knows plenty more, there’s plenty more to know.
“I have a very good understanding of what it takes to run a municipality,” he said, “and I’m still learning to this day. It’s a never-ending process.”
The board will discuss filling Howells’ position on Nov. 9. If a trustee is appointed to president, the new village president may appoint someone to the newly vacant trustee position.
Howells said he worked for 45 years starting when he was 16. He was an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Air Force for 32 years, living in Delaware, England and Oklahoma. He became a reservist and served as an air reserve technician (ART), a full-time civilian job working for the military, for 24 years.
“I had the world’s best job,” he said. “I got up every morning and wanted to go to work.”
Howells and his wife moved to the South Milwaukee area in 1984. When they decided to build a house, their realtor suggested Belgium.
“And I said I’ve been to the country,” Howells said with a laugh.
Once the couple visited, their gut feelings hit them both at once.
“This is home,” he said.