On December 10, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2020 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the nine honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.


Name: Howard Himes

Occupation:  Former Health and Human Services Director, Napa County (retired) and Former Social Services Director, Fresno County (retired)

Nominated by: The Department of Social Work Education and the Central California Social Welfare Evaluation, Research and Training Center

Howard Hime’s life has been dedicated to advocating for the most vulnerable populations. 

Born and raised in Sacramento, Himes came to Fresno to get his master’s degree in social work from Fresno State while interning with the Fresno County Child Welfare Services. The next 27 years saw him in a variety of roles within the agency, from program manager all the way to director of the Fresno County Social Services Agency.

During his internship with the county, Himes was assigned to the child sex abuse unit, where he had the opportunity to work with Hmong families who had recently arrived to Fresno as refugees. This informed both his master’s thesis and made him the right person to help lead the Southeast Asian Service Delivery program. The program provided culturally sensitive services to the Hmong community in Fresno, working to repair and strengthen the relationship between Hmong refugees and the city. 

“There’s no other feeling like harnessing the power of a community and making improvements to their lives,” Himes said.

One of Himes’s proudest moments was partnering with Margaret Jackson, a CHHS Hero honored in 2014, to train “brokers” – members in the community who were partnered with families involved in the child welfare system to bridge cultural gaps and act as guides. The Cultural Brokers program, with Margaret Jackson as executive director, has remained successful in lowering the disproportionality of minority children in the system, and is considered a model for other cities.

“Howard has inspired me by his lifelong commitment to speaking truth to power and an undying effort to address the racial inequities that exist in the child welfare system,” said Jackson. “His ability to establish lasting community partnerships and relationships between communities and child welfare agencies  have endured the test of time and remain intact long after his move to other regions and communities.”

While now retired from his role as director of the Napa County Health and Human Service Agency, Himes still works part-time as a consultant, with a focus now on the nationwide opioid crisis. He credits Fresno State, where he has taught as an adjunct professor, with educating the social work leaders of the future. 

The 2020 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held virtually this year. To register, visit bit.ly/CHHS-Heroes2020. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.