Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden Project Leader Steve Howard is job hunting in Florida as the spaceport’s viability is being litigated.

The Naples Daily News last week named Howard as one of seven finalists for the position of Collier County manager, a position the south Florida county expects to fill by July 1.

Camden County has spent $11 million and more than seven years on its plans to develop a spaceport on a former industrial site owned by Union Carbide. In December the project reached a milestone when the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Launch Site Operator’s License for Spaceport Camden. 

But legal limbo followed. In March, voters in a special referendum rejected the land purchase by nearly 3 to 1 margin. County officials, including Howard, say the referendum was illegal. The state Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter this summer. In the meantime the county is moving forward with the purchase against the expressed wishes of the voters.

An open records request to Collier County revealed that Howard did not mention Spaceport Camden on the five-page resume or accompanying cover letter he submitted March 27, 2022. Howard has been the county administrator in Camden since 2007. He was named as spaceport project leader in 2014.

“In summary I am a motivated professional who offers you a background of solid performance and accomplishments in implementing programs that promote quality and efficiency and responsible and responsive government,” Howard wrote in his cover letter.

Asked to comment on the omission of Spaceport Camden and why he was job hunting, Howard ignored the first question and addressed only the latter.

“I was honored to hear that I was one of seven candidates selected by the Collier County Board of Commissioners” he wrote in an email. “Me and my wife have family in the region. Collier County, Florida has a population of  over 384,000 and the current manager’s salary is $230,000.”

Howard was named as a finalist for the Fort Myers city manager position last year, and in 2018 he was a finalist for the manager’s job in Pinellas County but withdrew, the Naples Daily News reported.

Howard promoted the spaceport at a Savannah Exchange Club luncheon on April 11, saying the license was worth $90 million and the money spent so far was only 4% of the county’s budget. He also downplayed the significance of the referendum, emphasizing the low voter turnout and what he saw as confusing phrasing of the referendum question. He believes the county will prevail in court.

“That’s actually literally being litigated,” he told the Exchange Club regarding the referendum. “Now, we’re pretty confident that the board of commissioners will win that.”

The Tide brings notes and observations on news and events by The Current staff.