Ian Howarth received an early birthday present, which he describes as “a dream come true,” last month.
Howarth, who turns 41 on Saturday, has been hired as Blue Mountain Community College’s new regional director for Baker and Union counties.
With an eye toward returning to his hometown, Howarth said he was interested in applying for the position when he learned that former director Dan Koopman had resigned.
Koopman stepped down this fall after four years to accept a job at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay.
Howarth grew up in Baker City, but his family has spent the past four years in Boise.
That journey started when Howarth joined the Oregon National Guard in 2010 and began work as a chaplain in 2012 assigned in La Grande. He worked as a family service chaplain with Joint Force Headquarters in Salem from July 2012 to April 2013.
His Air Force career began that year working as chaplain of the 124th Fighter Wing at Boise. Since 2015, Howarth has been employed full time as a wing chaplain in the Idaho Air National Guard in Boise. He was promoted to the rank of captain in April 2018.
He and his wife, Allyson, had always hoped to return to Baker City and when the BMCC job opened up, Howarth said he decided to apply and hope for the best.
“I’ve always kind of kept my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in Baker,” Howarth said. “I knew Dan (Koopman) and Peggy (Hudson, who held the position before Koopman).
“I thought, man, that would be a fun position and an impactful one as well,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Howarth’s annual salary is $60,000.
Howarth said he is eager to become part of BMCC, where he continued his studies after high school.
From there, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Corban College at Salem. He next studied at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he earned master’s degrees in religion, religious education and human service, along with a Master of Divinity degree.
Howarth earned a Master of Arts degree in Christian counseling from Amberton University at Garland, Texas, and a Doctorate of Ministry in military chaplaincy from Piedmont International University at Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Howarth also has attended multiple chaplain leadership courses and received officer training through his military career.
As part of his military service, Howarth was deployed for six months to an undisclosed location at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates.
His other work experience includes teaching at Harvest Christian Academy in Baker City from 2006-2010 where he volunteered as a youth leader at Harvest Church for a couple of years.
He also served as the regional Early Assessment Support Alliance (EASA) coordinator for the Center for Human Development in La Grande, serving five Eastern Oregon counties, and also had worked as a mental health counselor for New Directions Northwest in Baker City.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back in the community and really see how education can help out and transform lives and make Baker and Union counties better,” he said.
The Howarths have two children. Their son, Jonathon, 18, is in training with the Idaho Air National Guard. Their daughter, Ellyanna, 17, is following in the footsteps of her parents, her aunt and uncle and her brother, by participating in the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) program at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Howarth said he was in a good position to remain in Boise to finish out his military career, but the tug toward Baker City was pulling him. His mother and stepfather, Billie and Bill McClure, live in the community, along with his sister and her husband, Joyclynn and Ben Potter.
But as a chaplain, Howarth says he just couldn’t overlook the spiritual aspect of the situation.
“Is this opportunity kind of something God has put in my path?” he had to wonder, even though the timing wasn’t exactly what he and his wife had planned.
And then they decided.
“This is a unique opportunity for me and it may never happen again,” he said. “Why not do it now.”