Interim Mobile Housing Board Executive Director Michael Pierce laid out his vision for the agency’s future during his first meeting at the helm Wednesday Morning.
In his remarks, Pierce said he recognized the challenges facing the board but feels the future is bright.
“In the midst of challenges, we have opportunities as well,” he added.
Pierce will have an uphill battle, though, as he will be tasked with helping to fill several positions in the agency’s executive suite including chief financial officer, asset manager and others. He called those roles “critical” to the agency’s mission and success.
On the hiring front, Human Resources Director Kathi Bryant said the Mobile County Personnel Board has selected four names for Pierce and the board to choose from for the position of CFO. Since there is less than 10, Bryant said the board could ask for more names.
The board currently has 80 employees, with 16 temporary employees to help supplement, according to Bryant.
A deputy director from Nan McKay & Associates will start on March 24, Pierce told the board.
Pierce, who is also on the Mobile Airport Authority board, spoke about the agency in business terms and brought up what he called “development opportunities.” He also hinted at the possibility of being more active in the real estate market in the future. Specifically, he discussed looking at future economic development interests to help benefit the agency.
“We’re in real estate,” he said. “We’re major real estate holders and we have parcels in prime locales.”
The former director of the MLK Redevelopment Corporation also told commissioners the agency would do more under his watch to improve the board’s image and public perception.
“We’re going to work very hard to change the narrative,” Pierce said. “So when someone mentions the Mobile Housing Board, you can stick your chest out with pride.”
Pierce touted nearly 25 years of experience in working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also introduced a technical assistance team that HUD has contracted to help the new board and Pierce get the agency on the right track moving forward.
MHB Chairman Norman Hill praised the direction of the board at the meeting. Referencing a rough stretch for the board, Hill noted that the agency had been labeled “substandard” in recent years and had been very close to being taken over by HUD.
Hill said those days are over and sent a message that hope can be restored in the agency.
“If anyone left early and has concerns about what we are doing, or where we are going, tell them to hold on,” he said. “We have got a massive job in front of us.”
There will be a greater sense of “urgency” going forward, according to Hill.
“We’re going to turn this agency around,” he said. “This is not a pep talk; it’s a call to action. We’re going to do it right …”
In other business, the board voted unanimously to name Tyrone Fenderson Jr. as its vice chairman.
The board also heard a report detailing a $330,000 loss at Josephine Allen Homes. The loss comes from required insurance payments at the vacant housing complex. Bryant said the agency has worked to reduce that loss recently by reducing the amount of insurance coverage.
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