City of Safford
The City of Safford, settled at the base of Mount Graham in rural southeastern Arizona, is a very unique municipality. Safford is the sole owner of all utilities; water, wastewater, gas and electric. Jenny Howard has have been employed with the City of Safford for 11 years. In the spring of 2015 she accepted the position of utility director, managing all Safford utilities as well as wastewater treatment, landfill and solid waste services.
With a 23-year background in electric infrastructure projects in western and central a US and 12 years in project management and controls, she feels right at home in the industry. Howard came to the City of Safford in 2004 from POWER Engineers, a world- renowned electrical engineering firm based in Idaho. She relocated temporarily to Safford from Sun Valley, Idaho for a job assignment in construction management on a large high voltage transmission line and substation project for Phelps Dodge Mining (Now Freeport McMorran).
Well, during her tenure with Phelps Dodge, she met and fell in love with a cotton farmer and they were married in 2004.
“It’s kind of funny that happened,” says Howard. “The first agricultural crop I saw when driving to Safford was a cotton field and I laughed out loud asking myself, ‘They grow cotton in Arizona?'”
After her contract was complete at the mine, she was hired by the City of Safford in procurement. Once on board with Safford she continued to develop knowledge in infrastructure operations and regulations in the wastewater, water and gas industries while attending the college of business at Eastern Arizona College. In 2007 she moved to a project management position and in 2015 became utility director. Howard loves the diversity of managing the utilities. As with all utilities, the challenges of replacing aging infrastructure, planning expansion with new development, and keeping the lights on and water flowing, means a well-managed maintenance program and a very detailed and well planned 5-year CIP. That is a challenge in itself (x 6). The city water infrastructure consists of 8,000 services and 250 miles of water pipe and serves not only the City of Safford but also the surrounding communities and unincorporated areas of Graham County. Safford also serves 4,000 electric and 3,500 gas, sewer and solid waste customers within the Safford city limits, as well as owns and operates the landfill which serves all Graham County population of 30,000.
Along with the daily challenges of providing multiple utility services to our customers, Howard loves Safford’s diverse community and the networking associated with the director position.
“Getting involved in community outreach and working alongside such a great team of Managers and employees is certainly an attribute to the overall success of the Utility Department. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”