From healing to the legislature: St. Rep. Wayne Howard is ready to get back to work

The Means Report - From Healing To The Legislature: Rep. Wayne Howard Is Ready To Get Back To Work
The Means Report - From Healing To The Legislature: Rep. Wayne Howard Is Ready To Get Back To Work
The Means Report - From Healing To The Legislature: Rep. Wayne Howard Is Ready To Get Back To Work
The Means Report – From Healing To The Legislature: Rep. Wayne Howard Is Ready To Get Back To Work

Augusta, GA (WJBF) – This week The Means Report is catching up on the goings on in Atlanta, as seen through the eyes of one of our leading lawmakers, but you will also find out about some personal battles that this lawmaker has been facing. State Representative Wayne Howard is letting us into his personal life – if you will – so that you, the voters and the members of his community, can find out what is going on.

Brad Means: I want to catch up with District 124 Representative in the Georgia State House of Representatives, Henry Wayne Howard. I know that he is a man who needs no introduction. Representative Howard has been serving this area under the Golden Dome for more than a decade now. And Representative Howard, first of all, welcome to The Means Report and thank you for your service to our state.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well you’re welcome and thank you to Brad Means and The Means Report for having me over and allowing me to talk to the community and talk to you as well.

Brad Means: Well it is a privilege for sure. And I run into all members of the Howard family every week when you record Parade of Quartets.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Parade of Quartets, yeah.

Brad Means: And going back to April, I stopped seeing you a lot of times and reports were slowly coming out that something was going on health-wise.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yes.

Brad Means: That you had been hospitalized. That it was not life threatening, but that it was serious. Representative Howard, tell us what you’ve been going through and where things are today.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well, I’ve battled with kidney failure for the last two years, I’m on the kidney list. And somewhere in March of this year my feet began to hurt me very much. And I went to Piedmont Hospital emergency room and this was non-related to my kidney disease, but my feet, they diagnosed me with an ailment called peripheral artery disease. To my understanding that was the reason that they decided to, that my best bet, I agree with them, to go on and take one of my limbs, and we went on and took another limb because it had spread throughout my lower extremities.

Brad Means: They were worried that if those legs had stayed on that this would take over your whole body?

Rep. Wayne Howard: It would take over my whole body, right, exactly.

Brad Means: And so you had to make the tough decision to agree or disagree with the doctors, you did agree to have both legs amputated.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yes.

Brad Means: First of all I just, I cannot imagine, I’m so sorry that you are going through this. And as I mentioned, you know, there was sort of this radio silence about Representative Howard, no one knew. Did you want to keep this very close to the vest, family only?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well, we didn’t know exactly what all was going on ourselves. So I was not in good shape. So we were, and I want to thank the public for allowing me to have the privacy that I needed in order to get through this and. But we were also, the public and even the members of the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle were, we want to thank them for their support and the gifts and prayers and all of the above to, for, you know, for supporting us.

Brad Means: Yeah, I was going to ask you, even though a lot of people weren’t reaching out directly to you.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Right.

Brad Means: Because things were private, could you feel the prayers, could you feel the uplifting?

Rep. Wayne Howard: I was so out of it, Brad, that I don’t know what was going on. But when I began to regather myself and know what was happening, I did, because my faith was strong.

Brad Means: Your faith has always been a key part of your life.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yes.

Brad Means: It was true with your father as well, the late great Representative Howard who preceded you in the Georgia General Assembly. Has that always been been an important part of your life, knowing that even in the darkest hour that God is there?

Rep. Wayne Howard: It has, but you don’t know how you need to use it until you’re faced with something like this and how much it means.

Brad Means: Has this changed your outlook on life or your outlook on public service?

Rep. Wayne Howard: It has, because I’m working right now on prosthetic legs. And this is moving, now I don’t think anyone would have known I would be talking about prosthetic legs at this point. And I’m looking to be a voice in Atlanta for folk with these type of problems, because you don’t understand and know what they’re going through until you go through it. They can tell you their problem but you don’t understand it, until you go, like I said you go through it yourself and you become one of them.

Brad Means: You know it’s interesting that you said that, because there is that disconnect between people who mean well.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Right.

Brad Means: And think they know what’s happening and then the reality that they really don’t. When Representative Howard came to the studio a few minutes ago, I greeted him in the lobby and I looked at him and I said you look great, you look different than I thought you would.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah.

Brad Means: And you know you still look like Wayne Howard.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah.

Brad Means: And you said how’d you expect me to look, like laid out, you know, on my back or something? And I didn’t know, I thought when I was driving to work, how’s he going to look? And you do look like the man we’ve always known and loved. Have you, I know we’re just six months into this, but have you seen the way that the state of Georgia rehabilitates people with needs like yours, or the way that the institutions operate that help you recover? And if so, what can we do at the state level to help those institutions be better so that people, who are in your situation, get the treatment they need?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, this not only relates to someone that’s disabled by losing a limb or whatever, but the disability, there are so many folk out there with disabilities and seniors. When you approach, we want to look at how seniors or folk with disabilities are being treated when they approach the, or have to go into a facility, are they being treated correctly, fairly, or with passion? And, you know, I think that’s something we want to look at on the state level for the disabled.

Brad Means: What has your experience been when you go through the doors of those rehabilitation centers, hospitals, doctors’ offices, are you treated the way you think we all should be treated, or do you think there’s room for improvement?

Rep. Wayne Howard: There’s room for improvement.

Brad Means: Have people been discompassionate? That’s probably not the right word. Have people been, what’s the treatment been like?

Rep. Wayne Howard: I think it depends on the facility. You know, some facilities are passionate.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Rep. Wayne Howard: And have, they have great staff and they really look, you know, believe in the patient, patient care. But there are some that fall short of that. And we shouldn’t have to fall short.

Brad Means: How can we improve things then? Are we talking stricter regulations, are we talking?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, looking at regulations, yes, right.

Brad Means: And so that they have higher standards to meet.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Exactly, right.

Brad Means: What about in your day to day life, accessibility to the places that a lot of us take for granted, how have you found that?

Rep. Wayne Howard: For me it has not been a problem yet. But, you know, before I was into this, had this, I’ve seen folk in wheelchairs or mobile units where they were trying to get across a sidewalk, or get past a curb and they couldn’t get by.

Brad Means: Yep, I’ve seen it.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah and you look at them while you’re driving and you say well what, how are they going to do that? And so I think we need to take a look at some of those things and try to improve ourselves in that area.

Brad Means: How hopeful are you that some of your goals can be accomplished, have you gotten a feel from your fellow lawmakers yet as to whether they’ll be onboard with you?

Rep. Wayne Howard: No, these are things that I’m planning on bringing to the table as we go back to the next session in January.

Brad Means: I would imagine that people who advocate for folks with physical challenges are thrilled that you’re about to go to bat for them. Have you heard from them?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well the orthopedic office doctor that I went to for my prosthetics was excited to know that they could have someone with a voice and I’m honored to do that.

Brad Means: What about the local delegation? I would assume that they are like, Wayne, whatever you need, let’s push it through.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, well, I believe they would take that position.

Brad Means: Most of them. Yeah.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, because this has been a journey for me and I look forward to being an advocate for those that can’t speak for themselves.

Brad Means: I’m sensing that you’re not planning to slow down, at least from a public service standpoint.

Rep. Wayne Howard: I don’t see any reason why I should. I can roll in this chair as fast as you can walk.

Brad Means: That is 100 percent true.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yes.

Brad Means: I even tried to, you know, kind of baby you into the studio, if you will, and you took off.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah.

Brad Means: And it went, I mean it went, you know, in all seriousness, it was quickly clear to me this is still the man he always was, get in the studio and tape your show.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah.

Brad Means: And I appreciate that.

Rep. Wayne Howard:  Well one thing has been true though, that I’ve learned is that I may have lost a couple of limbs, but I didn’t lose my mind.

Brad Means: No, sir.

Rep. Wayne Howard: So I’m still here.

Brad Means: Speaking of public service, Representative Howard has some plans to continue to make this community and this state a better place, including have you ever lived next to a property that’s abandoned or blighted and the problems that can come with that? He has plans to help improve that situation. Also addressing the pipeline to prison, how can we fix that situation in our state and make Georgia all that it can be? Representative Wayne Howard, our exclusive guest on The Means Report when we come back.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. Representative Henry Wayne Howard, Democrat from District 124, been serving in the General Assembly for more than a decade now, he goes back to work in January. He’s energized, despite the physical challenges he has faced and he’s ready to go to work for you. Representative Howard, one of the biggest items on your agenda is blighted properties, properties that people own but don’t take care of or care about and then we have to live next to them.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Right.

Brad Means: What can you do to clean it up? The city of Augusta, it seems, has had this on their agenda for years, what can we do about it?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well we want to try to give them some help. And what my thoughts are is that if you live, you have, can you imagine living next door to someone that’s got a tree hanging over your house?

Brad Means: No, and and, no, a constant nuisance.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, right and it doesn’t fall down and you called and it’s been reported several times and you don’t, can’t get anything done because it’s on private property. So if this is a hazard to you or your house we would like to see if we can come up with a way that the property owner can go onto the property and remove it themselves and charge it back to the property owner who is absent and not able to be found, or not responding to the notices that you send, so that you, as a property owner can clean it up yourself, but upon the sale of the property you can recoup your money back.

Brad Means: I know your phone rings off the hook, as a lawmaker it has to. Do you have a lot of people complaining about the things you’ve just described?

Rep. Wayne Howard: You hear it pretty often and I heard it a lot when I was on the campaign trail.

Brad Means: I bet.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah.

Brad Means: What about this pipeline to prison that’s also at the forefront of your heart and mind?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Oh.

Brad Means: We’ve got to help our young people.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Brad, you know, the dropout rate in high schools, the dropout rate even in middle school, kids just stop going to school. We’ve got to find some remedies to reduce those numbers.

Brad Means: Is it a lack of activities for the kids, where does it start, where can we begin to fix it?

Rep. Wayne Howard: There are probably several ways. We’ve got to find a way to increase the, you know, you don’t want to say money is the problem, but kids now need some activities other than just putting them in the classroom.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah and expecting them to read and produce in the classroom, they need some other, like we did last year, there was a bill, if you remember, if you heard it, recess, putting recess back into the high schools.

Brad Means: Yep.

Rep. Wayne Howard: You know, how important is that? That is so important, because if you, you can’t sit, even you and I, can’t sit at this desk for but so long before we’re bored, we need a break.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Rep. Wayne Howard: You know even people that work in, you know, your studio, they have to take a smoke break. You know, we’re not encouraging kids to go smoke or nothing like that.

Brad Means: Not at all, but you get, hey, I pick up my teenagers from high school every afternoon and they’re ready to run through a wall.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah.

Brad Means: And that’s with a physical education class. Yeah, you can’t coop somebody up for seven hours a day.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, seven hours, right, they need a recess or break just to hang out, you can get back in the classroom and do some more work.

Brad Means: Let me ask you a general question here, because I think you’d be a good person to ask, how’s Augusta doing when it comes to unity, racial unity, the ability to take advantage of so many exciting things that are happening in our community? You were part of the team that helped land 60 million dollars for the Cyber Institute downtown.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Right.

Brad Means: So much positive news is happening. Are we together as we should be?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well, we’re doing good, I think we’re doing a lot better than, than maybe it’s being reported. But overall I can say we, as a community, are doing fine. The delegation which I chair and have chaired for the last six years, you don’t hear that racial outburst from the delegation. Our Republican colleague, Jesse Stone, who’s been there almost as long as I have, he walked up to me last week, the other week and told me, he said, Wayne, we need you to stay here, because you’re the glue that holds us together. And I thought that was a pretty strong comment coming from a Republican colleague.

Brad Means: Yeah, sure was.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Because you don’t see, I don’t see myself as he sees me and for him to tell me that I thought was pretty amazing.

Brad Means: We probably have 30 seconds left, where is our new arena going to be built?

Rep. Wayne Howard: Ooh, God. That’s a good question.

Brad Means: We don’t know.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, we don’t know.

Brad Means: Is south, you like south Augusta, don’t you?

Rep. Wayne Howard: I do like south Augusta, but is that the best place? I don’t know. We’ve got to make a decision soon though.

Brad Means: Well, we’ll keep our eye on the decision makers and we’ll certainly keep our eye on your work in Atlanta.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Yeah, thank you.

Brad Means: And I just want to thank you for being here and just say that you are constantly in our prayers.

Rep. Wayne Howard: Well thank you.

Brad Means: Absolutely. Wayne Howard, he has been serving District 124 for more than 10 years now and he doesn’t need me to tell him this, but politics aside, the Howard family is a huge part of Augusta and has been for generations and we appreciate them.

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