The Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) has overhauled its leadership.
An entirely new slate of board members sworn in Monday evening - a response to questions about the way the previous board handed its business and WHA finances.
An executive session was scheduled to precede the board meeting, but it was replaced by a meet-and-greet for new board members - who largely had never met each other before Monday.
Seven of the board members were appointed by Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.
“First and foremost we wanted people who had the requisite skills and experience in housing, people with good experience in corporate governance which was lacking, and people who were very committed to seeing the city change," Purzycki said. "And I think we’ve got a great group.”
After the meet-and-greet, members were officially sworn in and voted to elect Tim Crowl-Bey as board chair. Crowl-Bey was appointed to the board by New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer.
“I know there’ve been a lot of reports and articles about the Housing Authority – what’s happened and what hasn’t happened," Crowl-Bey said. "I think all of us feel pretty comfortable that it’s a good organization and that with a little bit of leadership we can get in the position we want to be in.”
Crowl-Bey is currently Executive Director of the Inter-Neighborhood Foundation, and a former director of Wilmington’s real estate and housing department.
“I think we have a lot of good work to do – it’s important work," said new WHA board member Matthew Heckles – who has served various leadership roles at the Delaware State Housing Authority, and is now with Maryland’s Department of Housing. "We have some organizational things we’ll need to get together since most of us are new on the board, but once we get through them I think we’ll hit the ground running.”
A top priority for the incoming board is improving the organization’s finances - a priority shared by Wilmington Housing Authority Executive Director Eugene Rutter and federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Rutter met with HUD officials last week to discuss those finances – among other issues.
“The night before I felt like all three nights before my children were born, but it was for no reason at all because the meeting went very well," Rutter said.
Rutter says right now WHA’s finance department is rated as a standard performer – but he’s working with HUD to reach the level of high performance.
One benchmark necessary to earn high performing status is having six months of operational reserves in the bank. Rutter says right now, they have about half that.