Town Employee Spotlight: Kate Howarth

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Editors note: The following is the sixth in a series of occasional spotlights on Canton’s town employees. This week we are proud to introduce our readers to new Canton Firefighter Kate Howarth.

Last month, Kate Howarth achieved a major professional milestone when she was hired as a full-time firefighter by the Canton Fire Department. But her fire helmet is not the only hat that she wears for the town of Canton.

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Kate Howarth

Howarth, a former professional soccer player and a lifelong fan of the game, is also the head girls soccer coach at Canton High School.

A native of Michigan, she was a standout forward on her high school team and also on the elite club circuit for the Michigan Hawks. She then went on to have a successful four-year career at the University of Miami, where she earned All-ACC Second Team honors as a junior and finished with 21 career goals.

After leaving Miami, Howarth headed to Massachusetts to play for the New England Mutiny in the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite. Her goal was to play soccer professionally as an adult, and the following year she realized that dream by signing with the Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Howarth played with the Breakers during the 2013 season, and it was during this time that she decided to pursue a career as a firefighter. She was both encouraged by close friends and inspired by the work of first responders that she witnessed firsthand.

“If you can do something for a career that helps people on a daily basis, you’ve saved somebody’s life,” she said.

She was living in Walpole at the time of her decision and called the fire chiefs in neighboring towns asking to be allowed to gain experience by riding along with crews on fire trucks and ambulances. The fire chief in Norfolk accepted her request and soon she was spending eight hours a day, four days a week riding with the crews.

“It was great seeing what the guys do,” said Howarth, whose preference is to be part of an ambulance crew when responding to calls.

After Norfolk hired her as an on-call firefighter, Howarth took the Civil Service Exam and started studying for her paramedic’s license. She enrolled in an emergency medicine education program in Stoughton and spent seven months taking classes, accruing ride time, and doing clinician time at Norwood Hospital. The Canton Fire Department pulled the Civil Service list and sent her a card last spring, which started the hiring process.

Howarth, who began on July 1, enjoys everything about her job. “It’s new people; it’s a new environment,” she said. “Getting to know people and how they work, taking it all in. Getting to know a bunch of new people is a challenge in itself. Even as a coach it takes so long to learn names.”

She is rotating between Station 1 on Revere Street and Station 2 on Sassamon Street and learning street names and locations. “I knew the town fairly well from coaching,” she said. “You have to learn how to get there and where the hospitals are.”

Howarth will begin her third year as girls soccer coach for CHS in the fall. She said that soccer was a central part of her life growing up and that she was fortunate to have had a caring and enthusiastic coach when she was in high school, which motivated her in part to become a coach.

“I had that ‘aha’ moment,” she said. “It’s kind of my way of giving back.”

She also coaches club soccer, which means that she coaches all year long.

In her two years as head coach at CHS, Howarth’s lady Bulldogs have amassed an overall record of 21-11-6 while qualifying for the MIAA postseason tournament in both seasons.

“We have such a young and enthusiastic coaching staff,” she said. “The girls can relate to that. They want to have fun. I love that little edge that teenagers have, to win. They need someone to push them.”

Howarth has high hopes for this year’s team, which returns a number of players from the 2014 squad. Some of them, she said, play in the offseason for club teams, while others play only for Canton High School.

“A lot of the girls don’t play after the season,” she said. “But they get better over time. By the end of the season, everything flows.”

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