Thursday, June 26, 2008

Housing agency has new leader

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register
— Karen Dubois-Walton took over Jimmy Miller’s position as executive director of the Housing Authority of New Haven Wednesday, officials said.
Dubois-Walton was formerly the agency’s chief operating officer. Miller now serves as deputy director of special projects, essentially a right-hand man.
"She brings to the table her intelligence, her patience and her knowledge of how the program works," Miller said of the new executive director. "And she brings continuity. … If we need anything right now, it’s continuity."
Announcement of the switch was made at a commissioners meeting Tuesday.
Dubois-Walton said she is "thrilled" to have the position and plans to do little to change how the agency is now run.
Miller recruited Dubois-Walton after she had interviewed him for the executive director job in 2005. He snagged the role that November and soon after wooed her away from her job as Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s chief of staff.
Dubois-Walton beat out hundreds of candidates in the department’s three-month search. Miller had cut the list to 10 candidates. A personnel committee ranked them and interviewed the top three, he said. From the three, the group chose her.
Dubois-Walton will oversee administrative duties and all housing development projects in a manner similar to Miller, officials said.
Dubois-Walton said she will work with the city prison reentry program and find housing for rehabilitating criminals who participate in the city Project Restart program. She also plans to work on granting vouchers for families who qualify for Section 8 housing. Section 8 is subsidized and is generally for low-income, elderly and disabled tenants.
"We’ve got a strong staff who works together, works hard," she said. "It’s a nice place to be in."
The two officials have currently taken the roles of acting executive director and deputy director. They will negotiate official contracts for the positions with the agency’s board of directors by Aug. 1.
Although a March HUD report expressed concerns over Miller’s leave as head, authority officials said Dubois-Walton would continue Miller’s tradition.
During his tenure, Miller steered the agency away from mismanagement and scandal the federally funded group suffered under previous heads. Under his tenure, the agency’s Section 8 program was removed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s "troubled" list.
As deputy director, he will head development projects at Eastview Terrace, West Rock and William T. Rowe buildings. From an 80-hour work week as head, he will switch to a 50-hour week, he said, and will stay in New Haven part of the time.
Speaking to the New Haven Register Wednesday, Miller said he was tired. "It’s been a long 2½ years."
Victor Zapana is a New Haven Register intern.

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