TASC hires Waukon area native Jason Howes as new Executive Director

Jason Howes ...
Jason Howes ...

by David M. Johnson

TASC, Inc., or Training Advancement Skills in the Community, has touched someone in the community in one way or another. It is a non-profit organization, one of the largest employers in Waukon, that concentrates on fulfilling the lives of the area’s lesser advantaged citizens.
After a presence of multiple decades in the local community, this organization has shown it provides assistance, service, support and supervision to adult clients who have been diagnosed with mental, physical or emotionally disabling conditions as stated by a licensed physician or psychiatrist. It is also a home and community based service that provides home services to assist individuals in their own homes.

The TASC mission statement, “Inspired by the values of compassion, dignity, and respect, we build brighter futures,” has been the goal pursued by those involved in the organization, whether its the TASC Board of Directors, management or the staff and community skills trainers. Within the realm of further pursuit of that goal, TASC has recently hired a new executive director who is very familiar with its goals and overall purpose.

Jason Howes, born and raised in the Waukon community, has an extensive background and education that will be beneficial in leading TASC forward in a positive direction. He is a University of Northern Iowa graduate who, after graduation, taught sixth grade in western Iowa. Feeling this was not the right fit, he moved on to a different career path.

Jason began employment at TASC, working five years as both a House Manager and as an Employment Specialist. His father, Paul Howes, had been employed at TASC for 10 years and had worked as a house manager at the same time Jason was a house manager. It was at this time that Paul had shared some advice for his son and coworker, “Everyone needs to work together in order to provide the best service possible for the clients.”

This advice is well remembered and will be implemented by Jason to make TASC a successful organization. Working residentially as a house manager and working at the TASC center located just north of Waukon has allowed Jason to hone his skills that would be needed in his new position.

After some time at TASC, Jason moved on to working for Allamakee County as a Medicaid Waiver Case Manager. This continued for a number of years until Managed Care Organizations came to Iowa and began taking over case management services. What followed was further  involvement as a Service Coordinator and Justice Coordinator for the local mental health region, County Social Services. The services and programs within Allamakee and Clayton counties were the primary focus during this tenure as coordinator within that organization.

When the executive director position opened up at TASC, Jason felt this was an excellent opportunity to begin a new chapter  with his return to TASC. He was very excited because he knew how TASC worked in the community and how it touched the many lives, both clients and employees, that were part of the organization.

The now newly hired director, from past experience, felt the environment was not just a workplace environment but it felt like an environment that fostered a feeling of family.

“I believed that my goals and values closely align with TASC’s, and with my varied experience I could be a very good fit for the role,” observed Jason.

He felt with his leadership he could assist with directing the organization to a more positive and successful position in the community and for the lives involved with TASC.

Coupled with a strong professional background, there is also the experience of his parents to draw from in assisting with his new employment. Jason’s dad, Paul, who had worked as a house manager for TASC, and his mother, Kathy, who has for many years worked for Northeast Iowa Community (NICC) in Calmar teaching social work classes, have inspired their son to continue this mindset at TASC with their enjoyment in their occupations plus their dedication to helping others.

The executive director position at TASC was once held by Mary Ament, who held that position for a very long tenure as not only director but as the face of TASC. Jason has a deep respect for Mary, who he feels built TASC to be one of the best of organizations for serving individuals with disabilities in the state of Iowa.

“Mary is someone that has advice and information that you just cannot find anywhere else,” observed Jason, and he further added, “Mary provided me with a great deal of valuable information and assured me that I would be able to reach out to her as needed in the future regarding concerns or questions.”

Another former executive director at TASC since Ament’s departure, Sheila Schulte, was also instrumental in assisting the new incoming executive director by coming in briefly and giving insight plus advice. Jason said she was invaluable with the paper work and the files so that he was ready to take over the position in early June.

Jason has established a solid foundation, with his dad working for the organization in the past, with former directors Mary Ament and Sheila Schulte as resources and mentors to assist with his new position, his own professional background and an understanding of how TASC works in the various departments of the organization.

The new director has been able to maintain a level of calm during the storm of transitioning into his new position because of a strong bond with his own family. Free time with his wife, Laurie, and their two kids on the family farm allows that unwind needed from the pressures of the day. Whether it’s the family playing with the dogs or maintaining the farm, that escape is the needed remedy for Jason to prepare for the job the next day.

To start TASC on the right and positive path, one of Jason’s first acts as director was meeting individually with all the current staff. Jason feels that a team atmosphere that holds the idea that everybody is on the same page is a win for the organization. He has observed that, so far, all the employees he has had conversations with are there for the clients, which is a demonstration that staff clearly cares for the well-being, safety and happiness for the clients.

He is going to make an effort to retain the present staff, partnering with them so they feel they are not just working at TASC but also have a voice within it. Today’s world provides a difficult situation for employers to retain employees and to even hire new staff, a climate that has grown since COVID reared its ugly head several years ago.

As the new director, the  main plan is to get more quality employees, to find people that are interested in helping the individuals that are in need of help, and to make it know that TASC is such an organization that provides great services for individuals with disabilities.  Howes feels providing a positive work environment while actively combating and ending practices and behaviors that result in poor attitudes amongst the workers is a big step in retention of staff and the hiring of new staff.

The reception that Jason has received in his new position at TASC has been nothing but positive. There has been tremendous support from the board of directors, the staff, the clients, and members of the community outside of TASC. This is why as executive director he wants to continue the positive development of TASC and wants to demonstrate that the organization wants to partner with all elements of the community.

Jason wants to get the message out there to the general public that TASC is dedicated to providing local community members with disabilities the chance to live full, enriched lives. The focus will be on the strengths of the clients to help them to live the fullest lives possible.

The future for TASC looks solid as talks in Des Moines appear that Medicaid may be looking at actual raises in provider rates. Such a boost in rates would allow providers to provide more services to community members that are in need.  This might be a boost and a big assist with the present market shortage of workers as well. When an organization such as TASC is providing the services for those in need and can address issues that lead to the clients having a positive environment, this can attract the new hires that value that positive aura a company or organization will project when everything is progressing in the right direction.

It appears everything is in place for a positive outcome for the new executive director and the organization he now leads. Jason has witnessed at TASC a leadership team that consists of various department heads and managers that all feel the same as Jason: the clients come first, and the foundation has been laid to ensure that. The board is more than willing to give support whenever that is needed.

As the new executive director, Jason Howes is very confident that he can continue the TASC organization down the path in its journey of providing a future for those clients with disabilities, a future that offers nothing but good things for those clients and for the staff providing for those clients.