Ypsilanti Housing Commission director search: 39 people apply; Jan.1 deadline set
The Ypsilanti Housing Commission received 39 applications for its executive director position and the process to select a permanent director is under way.
The search for a new director comes months following several financial and mismanagement issues found within the commission by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
According to YHC Board of Commissioners documents, the search is on schedule as outlined in the HUD recovery plan agreement that states a new director must be found by Jan. 1, 2013.
Previous director Walter Norris retired on Aug. 4 and Eric Temple was appointed interim director.
Commissioners expressed concern during their November meeting, stating they felt the timeline outlined in the agreement by HUD was "very tight." Board President Deborah Strong said she would check with HUD to see how flexible the hire date may be.
The recovery agreement outlines several changes HUD believes need to be made in order for the program to remain sustainable as well as in control of the YHC. The plan identifies the "available remedies" to correct the commission's issues.
Strong met with Eastern Michigan University Professor Barbara Patrick on Nov. 19 to review and conduct the first cut of the applications. That review process narrowed the number of applicants down to less than half.
Strong could not be reached for comment and information about the applicants was not readily available. Although, one applicant was confirmed weeks ago when Temple stated during a council meeting that he planned to apply for the position.
City Council Member Ricky Jefferson said the YHC is including EMU in the search process for its expertise. In addition to Patrick, the YHC is also working with EMU Professor Joe Ohren and the city of Ypsilanti's human resources department.
"Deborah Strong is doing what she can to involve the entire community so they can be transparent in the process,"Jefferson said.
Jefferson said from what he's been told, the goal is to whittle the number of applicants down to between six and eight. Those individuals would then go before the board of commissioners to see if they meet the needs of the housing commission.
"They may possibly cut more at that point," Jefferson said.
Once the list is further reduced and reference checks have been conducted, the selected finalists will be reviewed further through a process involving three panels comprised of the commissioners, community members and the YHC staff.
The final choice is made by the board of commissioners because the YHC is a separate legal entity from the city. While the mayor can appoint or remove commissioners and council can vote to approve or deny the appointments, neither have a direct impact on who is chosen.
The appointment of a new director would continue a recent trend of leadership change within the commission. City Council voted in October to immediately remove a sitting commissioner, Bernice Ethington, and approve two new appointments. The decision to remove Ethington came two months after council voted to remove former YHC board president Ma'Cheryl Jones.
Tabitha Boone and Ariel Moore are the two new board appointments, bringing the current total of board members to four, including Strong and E. Renee Smith. Five members are needed in order for the board to be complete.
City officials are hopeful the changes can lead the YHC out of financial trouble. Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said he would like to see the housing commission work more closely with Washtenaw County in terms of the county's efforts for more affordable housing.
"I would hope that the next director would be able to reach out and expand that type of program," Schreiber said. "I think it's going to lend some stability to the housing commission."
Schreiber said he hopes the YHC also works with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which took over the Section 8 program after HUD decided to permanently transfer it.
"Even though they’re (MSHDA) administering Section 8, the residents are still living in this area," he said.
Schreiber noted that continuing to improve its relationship with HUD will prove to be critical for the YHC.
"I think it really needs to focus on getting out of troubled status," Schreiber said. "One of the positive aspects is the Detroit office is working the housing commission. I think that relationship has improved."
Officials said there will be an open session for members of the public to come out and share their thoughts. An official date has not been set.