I had the pleasure of working for Mark Howell for eight years in the Town of Concord’s IT Department, and cannot think of another citizen who would be a better fit for the Select Board. When I was hired, Mark was the only IT employee, having inherited an aging IT infrastructure and much pent-up IT demand. Within a couple years under his leadership, he and the team he built had replaced all failing hardware, upgraded much of the software, and established a responsive help desk. Simultaneously, he planned, staffed and implemented the fiber broadband service that many of us enjoy today.
Much of what we accomplished was due to Mark’s leadership, town government knowledge and values. Many IT leaders have deep technical expertise and formidable business acumen, as Mark does, but what sets him apart are other qualities. Mark has a deeply collaborative work style, in which he is interested in hearing all opinions, with an open mind. He actively encouraged his staff to suggest new ideas, and provided support for us to bring them to fruition. In meetings with other departments, he was most interested in hearing how IT could be an ally, to streamline their work and eliminate “points of pain.” I imagine that some staff initially worried that too much time spent listening meant slower projects, but instead, projects proceeded rapidly, because of the buy-in and robust planning. He built a level of trust and reliability within the town, such that senior leadership depended on him not only for his technological expertise, but for his overall understanding of town government, finance and each department’s role (IT touches everything!).