At a special meeting of the NHA Board of Directors on June 4th, the board interviewed two finalists for the position and seemed ready to vote to hire Cara Clifford, a manager at Konover Residential Corporation in West Hartford Connecticut, but put off a final vote until this coming Monday, when they will have their regular monthly meeting. Four of the six members had praised Clifford’s qualifications and seemed ready to vote, but held off in deference to Toni Hochstadt, the governor’s appointment to the Board of Directors.
Ms. Hochstadt said she “wasn’t good at making decisions” and asked for more time to think about the two candidates.
It has been a long rocky road for the board of directors and their consultant, Carole Collins. Thirty-nine applicants were originally interviewed, the list was whittled down to nine applicants for a second round of interviews, there were meetings with staff and community members. The first attempt to select a finalist failed, and Jon Hite agreed to postpone his retirement. This time around, a third finalist dropped out at the last minute, leaving just two applicants for the final cut. The finalists are M.J. Adams-Pullan, currently Director of Community Development at the Franklin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and Cara Clifford, an experienced manager with Konover Residential. What seemed to impress board members was Ms. Clifford’s record in turning around a troubled housing project, Windham Heights, in Willimantic Connecticut, and her extensive experience in public and affordable private housing and her knowledge of the Section 8 voucher system. She said drug dealers in Windham Heights had scared off two previous managers, and what finally turned the place around was organizing a seven-member task force that brought in the State Police. In 2001 the National Affordable Housing Management Association awarded Konover an award for the “Outstanding Turnaround of a Troubled Property Award” for their work in Windham Heights. To read an old Courant clipping on the project, click here.
About fifteen tenants attended. The applicants answered questions posed by board members, and later the board members heard the ratings given to both candidates by their consultant, and talked about their impressions of the candidates. I must say I was impressed by the transparency of the process, which did not take place behind closed doors. In the past, the selection of NHA executive directors was dictated by political insiders, but it looks as if qualifications and merit are now all important. It’s a big job overseeing 600 plus units in seven complexes, and yes we do have drug dealers working out of NHA apartments, complexes without tenant associations, and racial imbalance problems. There’s a lot of work to do.