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RRHA searching for new CEO to oversee public housing agency

RRHA searching for new CEO to oversee public housing agency

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The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority has begun searching for its next chief executive officer.

The position is responsible for overseeing the agency that manages more than 3,700 units of federally subsided housing locally. It has been a revolving door in the past six years, with five people holding the post permanently or on an interim basis during the span, including three people in the past 12 months.

“It’s been somewhat tumultuous; we certainly have been victims of turnover,” said Robley Jones, one of the longest tenured members of the RRHA of Commissioners. “We’ve made progress, and I think we can feel good about some of the things going on right now … but we really need a steady hand with a commitment to stay.”

In its next leader, Jones and others on the board say a long-term commitment to the city is crucial. So, too, is someone who can build trust with the roughly 10,000 residents living in RRHA properties as the agency moves ahead with redevelopment plans.

“The pressures on the CEO, it’s not just the job; it’s politics, it’s public relations, it’s press,” said Neil Kessler, another commissioner on the board. “And it takes a while to earn trust.”

The RRHA’s goal of transforming its public housing properties has drawn the ire of some local activists and tenant advocates. They frequently clashed with former RRHA CEO Damon E. Duncan, who vowed to overhaul the complexes known collectively as the “Big Six” after taking over the housing authority in spring 2019.

Duncan set his sights on the oldest and largest of Richmond’s complexes: Gilpin Court. Vowing to “tear it down,” he applied for a federal grant to jump-start the revitalization process, but struck out.

Under Duncan, the housing authority stopped leasing at another complex, Creighton Court. When the RRHA sought to evict dozens of families from the East End complex a few months later, advocates decried the move, saying it was an attempt to speed a slow-moving redevelopment plan that predated Duncan’s arrival. Duncan said the evictions were not tied to the plans.

Within a year of his start date, Duncan submitted his resignation to the board last March.

Duncan said at the time he wanted to be closer to family in Georgia. Later, it came out that he was hired as the head of the Montgomery Housing Authority in Alabama. He held both jobs for about a month and a half before leaving Richmond last June.

After Duncan’s departure, his top deputy, Terese Walton, took over the interim CEO post temporarily. The agency’s controller, Stacey Daniels-Fayson, then took the reins, and has held the interim role for the past six months. Since then, five new members have been seated on the commissioners board.

The board’s search to replace Duncan formally kicked off in mid-December. Candidates can apply through Jan. 29. A brochure posted on the RRHA website says the board is looking for someone who has “the capacity to deal effectively with a wide-variety of individuals, including those who exhibit skepticism or who do not cooperate.”

The RRHA’s online listing for the position does not specify a pay range. Duncan made $200,000 annually.

Chairwoman Veronica Blount did not return calls about the job search.

mrobinson@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6734

Twitter: @__MarkRobinson

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