The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners has narrowed its search for a new executive director to four candidates, with face-to-face interviews scheduled for later in the month, Chairwoman Kimberly Pettway said recently.
The four finalists, who are all from out of town, were chosen from 10 applicants after a series of Skype interviews last month. Pettway did not name the candidates at this point out of respect for the fact that they are currently working other jobs.
The face-to-face interviews will take place June 19 and 20, Pettway said, with plans for the board to call a special meeting at the end of the month to name a replacement for interim Executive Director Lori Shackelford.
Only one of the 10 candidates found to qualify for the job by the Mobile County Personnel Board is local, Pettway said. She said the board is seeking candidates who havd experience with conversions to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program.
“We’re looking for someone … who went through the RAD process,” Pettway said. “We’re looking for someone who can engage our clientele.”
Reid Cummings, vice chairman of the board, said he personally wants the next executive director to be “somebody who has a very broad range of talents.”
“Somebody who’s a good manager and a good executive,” Cummings said. “Somebody who has been exposed to public housing in a city our size or larger, or an organization our size, who understands the tenor of the changes taking place.”
Cummings said he hopes the person they choose will be in the position for a while.
“I don’t want to bring someone in who is here for a short time,” he said. “This is a big decision for us. It’s important to make the best decision we can.”
Cummings added he is looking forward to the face-to-face interviews, as that gives the board an opportunity to get another look at the candidates in another situation.
During the second round of interviews, Cummings said, the candidates will also meet with executive staff members.
Complicating the search for a new leader, HUD and the board must reach a “mutual” agreement to put off the housing authority’s remaining RAD conversion tasks until a new executive director is named, Pettway said.
Converting to RAD would allow the board to act as a private developer and receive financing through bank loans. The program, which will require partnerships with private entities, will allow the board to operate with more steady funding in the future. In addition, the program will result in the conversion of all board properties to housing choice vouchers, or Section 8.
Pettway said the search for an executive director, with the help of the personnel board, has taken longer than expected. She called the decision to hold off on continued conversion a “mutual decision.”
“It has been a while,” she said. “There was no expectation it would take this long.”
Pettway added that the board would have to rethink some of the RAD conversion plans anyway.
“That concept is relatively new,” she said. “… We want to follow the guidance of the executive director.”
The board is looking at making other changes as well. The board is looking to make all the positions under its nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises, board positions, Pettway said. The move would effectively make every employee there part of the merit system.
MDE would still be used, but would not have employees.
“MDE will still exist,” Pettway said. “It can be used as we get individual grants. It won’t have anymore employees.”
Cummings said he has been in favor of the proposed change since the board’s first conversation about it. He said the plan would reset the nonprofit that “grew in all different directions.”
“It makes perfect sense,” Cummings said.
Current MDE employees will have it reapply for their positions under the Mobile County Personnel Board, Pettway said. This apparently includes State Rep. Adline Clarke, who works as a vice president for MDE.
“All decisions regarding the employment positions will be made by the Board of Commissioners for the Mobile Housing Board and the MDE Board,” Clarke wrote in an email message. “I don’t know what positions will be available after the changes.”
Cummings said it’s possible “one or two” positions could be lost due to the change because some jobs may not transfer from MDE to MHB.
“I think we have some positions throughout the organization that might have a different shape and form once the personnel board gets involved,” he said.