People who knew the late Howard Carpenter say his death this week represents the loss of a true example of community service and poise under pressure.
Carpenter was a veteran, a volunteer, a scholar and successful businessman who stuck his neck out for his community while serving on Schenectady’s City Council.
The Union College graduate, who served as a special investigations officer in the U.S. Air Force, died Christmas Eve at age 74 from complications of a lung disease, according to his obituary.
Carpenter, an attorney, joined the City Council in 1975. He, along with former mayor Karen Johnson and Joseph Notar, joined the council at the start of longstanding Democratic control of the city’s government.
Karen Johnson this week said she recalls joining Carpenter for a door-to-door campaign where the new Democrats promised Schenectadians, “We can have a great city again.”
Johnson said Carpenter’s keen eye for details helped the city avoid fraud when developers tied to organized crime proposed a project for State and Albany streets.
“Howard had suspicions about it, as did I,” Johnson said.
The suspicions led to an investigation coordinated by State Police Organized Crime Unit Capt. Thomas Constantine, who became Carpenter’s friend. The probe led investigators to put a wire on Carpenter for a discussion with suspects, Constantine said this week — and Carpenter didn’t hestitate, despite the risk.
“We had him all wired up for the conversation. He went through that, and he always told me later, he was sweating,” Constantine said.
The case never led to an indictment, Constantine said, but Carpenter played an important role.
“He aborted any plans from going forward,” Constantine said.
Carpenter, who started his own law firm in Schenectady, also served at no cost as attorney for the city’s Industrial Development Agency at a time when the agency was nearly bankrupt, said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy.
“He was always the more-thoughtful, consensus-building individual,” McCarthy said. “Whatever role he was playing, he didn’t look to get recognition.”
Johnson described him as “very calm, very thoughtful, very smart, very savvy”
She said she considers him more idealistic than any other person she’s known in politics.
“He really took the role of councilman seriously. It wasn’t about his ego, it was about making his town a better place,” Johnson said.
A funeral service for Carpenter is planned for 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rexford.