That’s what happened to Dan Howell.
At the age of 16, he was working part time as a clerk in the dairy department of the Hinky Dinky grocery store in Nebraska back in the 1950s. When he graduated from high school, the manager of the grocery offered Howell a job as the manager of the dairy department.
“I hated it ... I turned it down,” Howell said. “All I had was visions of day-in, day-out stocking milk.”
He wanted to work in radio.
So, he quit his grocery job, moved to Kansas City, Mo., to live with his brother, and started broadcast school there.
Howell, the current executive assistant to the Bradley County mayor and liaison for the media for the past four years, was named the Cleveland Media Association’s Excellence in Communications Award winner for 2012 at its meeting Friday.
“I’m in shock ... I’m speechless,” Howell said. “Really speechless. ... There are so many more deserving people ... I’m honored.
“I’m overwhelmed at being in the same company of previous award winners ... and to be recognized by my friends, colleagues and hometown. I’ve received other awards, but this one has to be at the top of the list. It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m humbled and surprised. Thank you so much.”
Over the years, Howell started out working in a TV repair shop, read news into a microphone, changed lights on radio towers, was a disc jockey, and worked at various radio stations here and in Florida, as well as at a music studio in Greenville, S.C.
According to Barry Melton, past president for CMA, who introduced Howell as this year’s award winner, Howell arrived in Cleveland in 1971 where he started working with Elwood Matthews and the Church of God of Prophecy’s “Voice of Salvation” program, the longest running religious radio show in the U.S.
At the time he also worked at WBAC-AM Radio in Cleveland, as well as at WDEF News 12 TV station in Chattanooga. He joined Fox 61 in 1993, where he was its first news anchor. Howell has also owned his own advertising agency. He has run for political office. And, he has been an adjunct professor at Lee University. He now hosts a TV program in Chattanooga.
“Although I have been in 26 countries,” Howell said, “Bradley County is the best place to live in the world. It has a great sense of caring and community.”
Along the way, Howell and a friend even signed a record deal in the 1960s with Warner Brothers and produced a music album together titled “Introducing Stan and Dan.” Howell even performed at the Grand Ole Opry, receiving a standing ovation.
But more recently, he was integral in communicating between area residents and county government during the area’s several emergency situations this year and last.
“Dan Howell has always represented my office well,” said Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, “and it is a pleasure working with him.”
Over the years, Howell has earned several other awards, including multiple honors from the News Writers Association and Press Association for best news coverage, to name just two.
Friday was the 11th time the CMA award has been granted.
The award was created to honor the achievements of an outstanding person in the Cleveland area who has demonstrated leadership in the field of communications.
Previous winners of the CMA award were Tom Rowland in 2002, Beecher Hunter in 2003, Corky Whitlock in 2004, Michael Laney in 2005, Cameron Fisher in 2006, Barry Melton in 2007, Nancy Neal in 2008, George Starr in 2009, Allen Mincey in 2010, and Bob Gault in 2011.
In other business:
- The installation of new officers will be Jan. 11, at the CMA meeting at Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce. The new officers for 2013 are Joel Kailing, president; Heidi Tompkins, vice president; Julie Jones, treasurer; Roger Johnson, secretary; and Allen Mincey, public relations officer.