HONESDALE — Attorney A.G. Howell of Honesdale announced his candidacy Wednesday for Wayne County District Attorney, calling himself “the only real Republican” in the race and unveiling plans to address the opioid crisis and ensure school safety.

 “I am running for DA because I want to help make Wayne County a great place to live, work and raise our families,” Howell said. “I was born and raised here, I’m the only real Republican in the race and I care deeply about my community. The people of Wayne County are like family to me. I’m proud to call myself a native of Wayne County and I would be proud to serve as its next District Attorney.”

Howell held a campaign kickoff event Wednesday evening at The Hotel Wayne.

Howell, 46, is seeking the Republican nomination for District Attorney in the primary election May 21. A third-generation Honesdale attorney, he has two decades of experience practicing criminal law as an Assistant District Attorney, Public Defender and in his private practice. He has handled all types of criminal cases from homicides to drug crimes, sex offenses and DUIs. He has also served as solicitor for Wayne County Children & Youth Services where he fought to protect abused and at-risk children and teens.

“I have many years of experience as a prosecutor and my experience is here in Wayne County, not Philadelphia,” Howell said. “I also spent a decade as a Public Defender, which means I’ve seen both sides of our criminal justice system. I believe my experience, integrity and background make me the most qualified candidate for Wayne County District Attorney.”

In addition to aggressive prosecution of all cases filed in Wayne County, Howell is proposing comprehensive plans to address the opioid crisis and ensure school safety.

“Like many in law enforcement, I don’t believe throwing addicts in jail is the solution to the opioid crisis,” he said. “If you’re an addict facing a first-time offense for possession, I’d rather see you get sober, get back to your family and get your life back on track.”

If elected, Howell said he would establish a diversionary program that would allow qualified first-time offenders to get into recovery sooner rather than later and avoid the consequences of a criminal record. If they don’t fulfill the requirements of the program, they would face prosecution. He said he also would aggressively go after drug dealers and cut off the supply of opioids – both street drugs like heroin and fentanyl, as well as prescription pills. Howell said he also wants to establish educational programs in Wayne County schools to keep kids from trying opioids, and work with doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, treatment centers, social service agencies, and parents to address all aspects of the opioid crisis.

“The opioid crisis is a multifaceted, complex problem that is going to require a communitywide effort to address,” Howell said. “As the county’s chief law enforcement officer, I believe it would be my duty to lead that effort.”In addition to opioids, Howell said he would assemble a coalition tasked with preventing and responding more effectively to threats of school violence. The group would include school officials, law enforcement, children and juvenile services, mental health providers and school behavioral health specialists. The main objectives of the coalition would be to make sure every school in Wayne County has an armed police, resource or security officer on campus in the event of an active shooter situation; to develop countywide policies and protocols regarding school safety; and to open the lines of communication among all stakeholder groups to identify and respond immediately to potential threats.

“As a father of four, this is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart,” Howell said. “I want our schools to be safe.”

Howell was born and raised in Honesdale, a few doors down North Main Street from where he lives today with his wife, the former Patti Murray, and four children. A graduate of Honesdale High School, Howell earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Dickinson College and a law degree from the California Western School of Law in San Diego. He practices with his father, Fred, a well-known community leader, in the family firm founded in 1935 by his grandfather, A. Emerson Howell. He is a past Secretary and Treasurer of the Wayne County Bar Association, and a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He serves as the Zoning Board solicitor for Palmyra, Lebanon and Damascus townships.

In addition to his legal credentials and accomplishments, Howell is also very active in the community. He is a board member and past President of the Wayne Memorial Hospital board; past President of the Honesdale Jaycees; past board member of the Wayne County YMCA; and a member of the PA Farm Bureau. He is a youth sports coach for baseball, soccer and basketball, and serves as President of Honesdale Biddy Basketball. He is a past President ofTASS Soccer of NEPA.

For more information about Howell and his campaign, go to www.AGforDA.com or www.facebook.com/aghowellforda.