The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners (MHB) is one step closer to naming a new, permanent executive director after approving two agenda items at a special meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27.
With a pair of unanimous 3-0 votes, the board made the provisional appointment of Michael Pierce as executive director and authorized acting Executive Director Kathi Bryant to forward Pierce’s necessary paperwork to the Mobile County Personnel Board in order for him to be considered a candidate for the job.
MHB Chairman Norman Hill said at the meeting that another potential candidate had not been interested in the position, which led the board to go with Pierce. Pierce, once approved as a candidate by the Personnel Board, would serve in an interim capacity while other names are compiled as part of a list of permanent candidates.
“He is highly respected,” MHB Chairman Norman Hill said. “He has the character and integrity needed to lead this organization.”
Multiple sources familiar with the inner workings of MHB said they believe Pierce will eventually become the permanent executive director.
New Commissioner Carlos Gant voted with Commissioner Joyce Freeman and Hill to approve the appointment. Commissioner Tyrone Fenderson Jr. was not present at the meeting and Commissioner Brie Zarzour confirmed to Lagniappe last week that she has resigned her seat.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve and wish the Mobile Housing Board the very best,” Zarzour wrote in an email message.
Zarzour’s resignation follows a meeting in which Hill was voted in as chairman over her. At the meeting Fenderson abstained from the vote, allowing Freeman and Hill to vote in the new chairman 2-1.
Zarzour’s announcement also comes some two weeks after former MHB Chairwoman Kimberly Pettway served in that capacity for the last time. In a statement, Pettway said she decided to leave the board to better deal with the death of her father.
Before leaving her post, Pettway helped push through the approval of an interim deputy director position. The contract, approved by the board, between San Diego-based Nan McKay & Associates will not exceed $165,000.
If approved as a candidate by the Personnel Board, Pierce will be the third person to serve as executive director since January 2017 and the fourth person the board has named to the position in that time.
Dwayne Vaughn resigned in early 2017. In June of that year, the board named George Lee Byers as executive director, then reversed that decision in August after issues in the vetting process.
The board then hired Akinola Popoola, who had been a candidate when Byers was hired. Popoola came on board in December 2017. A series of financial and other issues soured the board on Popoola and he was fired in September 2018 after less than a year on the job.
Among other things, Popoola shared blame for the authority losing about $485,000 from an email phishing scheme targeting former MHB Chief Financial Officer Lori Shackelford.
Pierce is currently secretary of the Mobile Airport Authority (MAA) and also serves as executive director of the MLK Avenue Redevelopment Corp. It’s unclear whether he will be able to continue in all of those positions. Mayor Sandy Stimpson has the appointing power over both the MAA board and the housing board.
Gant, the newest MHB member, is also chairman of the Mobile Planning Commission as of its Feb. 21 meeting. Stimpson appoints members to that commission as well.
As MLK Avenue executive director, Pierce has experience dealing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), something that could benefit him in his MHB role. According to the MAA bio, Pierce has invested more than $10 million in HUD funds to help construct 126 affordable homes in Mobile.
Pierce was a football standout at Murphy High School and Tulane University, according to biographical information on the MAA website. He joined the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent in 1990, but was hampered by a lingering knee injury and never played at the highest level.
Pierce is expected to take over during a moment of transition for the agency. Not only is the board currently experiencing high turnover, but many of the executive positions within the agency are unfilled. It is unclear how much longer that will be the case.
In addition, the agency is still working through a reorganization prompted by the reworking of its nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises. The board and agency will also direct future redevelopments currently in the works for the former Roger Williams Homes complex as well as the R.V. Taylor and Thomas James complexes.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).