After almost a year, the Mobile Housing Board will have a new executive director at the helm.

Akinola Popoola was officially hired by the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners at its October meeting. The current director of Opelika’s housing authority will take over in Mobile on Dec. 1.

“Well, that only took a year,” Commissioner Reid Cummings said. “I mean, by the start date.”

Chairwoman Kimberly Pettway seemed to agree the hiring took longer than it should have.

“There’s an issue with this board seeming to run in slow motion,” she said.

The board’s hiring of Popoola brings to an end an unusual chain of events. In late June commissioners offered the job to George Lee Byars, with Cummings the only dissenting vote.

However, they rescinded the offer to Byars in August and instead offered the job to Popoola, who had previously been rejected. The decision to change direction was apparently spurred by a vetting process in which Byars did not “pass muster,” Cummings said at the time.

SERIES: MOBILE HOUSING BOARD

In other business, the board voted to follow staff recommendations and move away from an occupancy plan based on future revitalization. Instead, the board’s staff will work to get all properties to maximum occupancy levels regardless of whether the development is slated for revitalization or transitioning into the rental assistance demonstration program.

Additionally, board attorney Raymond Bell told commissioners it appears the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has concerns with some of the personnel changes MHB is planning to make in absorbing Mobile Development Enterprises into the merit system.

For one, he said, it appears HUD believes MHB has excess personnel and should use some funds elsewhere.
“HUD doesn’t have much appetite for clerical help,” Bell said. “We need to focus funds away from personnel and into brick and mortar.”

Specifically, HUD had questions about 12 positions on the board’s reorganization chart.

“HUD wanted to make sure that the job descriptions married a need and that the need used as few people as possible,” Bell said.

Commissioner Norman Hill said he would’ve liked to have seen more cuts made to the reorganization chart. He called it “more of the same.”

There was also a discussion about possibly waiting to fill positions until Popoola arrives in December, but Lori Shackelford, interim director, asked the board to consider filling positions as soon as possible and holding top-level positions for Popoola’s arrival.

“If lower-level positions are affecting morale … we should fill those positions,” Cummings said.

Pettway reminded staff that jobs would not simply transfer, but employees would have to reapply for the jobs.