Wilmington public housing authority chooses new executive director

2022-05-05 09:15:34 By : Mr. Lucas Xiang

Wilmington's public housing authority has a new top leader as the organization grapples with a mold crisis.

The Wilmington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners approved appointing Tyrone Garrett as the authority's executive director on Tuesday. Garrett comes to Wilmington from Washington D.C. where he headed up the District of Columbia Housing Authority.

Garrett resigned from D.C.'s housing authority last year following what local media called a "tumultuous tenure" that included controversial re-development plans and high-ranking employees leaving the housing authority.

In 2019, a lawsuit against the New Jersey public housing agency Garrett formerly ran named him as a defendant, alleging he helped foster an unhealthy work environment.

More:Longtime Wilmington public housing complex could be demolished for new development

More:Mold displaces more than 450 people from Wilmington's public housing. Here's how to help.

But Garrett told members of the media on Wednesday he's ready to get started in Wilmington on the right foot.

His planto focus on transparency with residents in addition to creating an efficient organization that's able to create and maintain affordable housing in the future, Garrett said. 

"Those are the big two pieces of the puzzle for me that I want to get started with right away," he said.

In his new role, rehousing Wilmington Housing Authority residents displaced by mold is "first and foremost," Garrett said. 

Over the last year, more than 450 people, including 161 adults and 315 children, have been moved from public housing units at Hillcrest, Houston Moore Terrace, Vesta Village, Creekwood, Rankin Terrace, Eastbrook and Woodbridge. While some have returned to their units following mold remediation, many remain temporarily housed in hotels and apartments.

"The priority is definitely to return those residents back to their homes as quickly as possible, and make sure that they are not displaced any longer than what they actually need to be," Garrett said.

On Wednesday Garrett wasn't able to offer details about his plan to address the authority's mold displacement issues, saying he didn't yet know enough about the "nuts and bolts" of the situation.

But he did say clear leadership in the housing authority will help bring a "different tone" and make it easier to tackle the issues facing the organization. The authority's previous executive director, Katrina Redmon, resigned last August. The organization has been searching for a new director since then.

“Tyrone Garrett has demonstrated a passion for public housing over his many years in the sector,” Al Sharp, Chair of the Wilmington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, wrote in a press release announcing the hire.

“He is the right person to lead WHA to a re-envisioned future. He will bring energy and urgency to the role. He has knowledge of our current situation and is ready to join us in building the future.”

Garrett, who will start with the housing authority on May 16, said he plans to begin by establishing a 90-day action plan. He also wants to create a strategic plan for the organization.\

Despite the issues facing the authority, Garrett said he's up to the challenge and will draw from his past experiences -- good and bad.

"I haven't gone to a Housing Authority upfront that hasn't had issues right from the very jump," he said. "So this isn't anything that's unique to me. I love the challenge."

Before heading up D.C.'s housing authority, Garrett served as the executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Long Branch in New Jersey for 15 years. There, he ran a $20 million redevelopment project and won $72 million in tax credits for the organization.

In D.C., Garrett spearheaded a $2 billion plan to preserve, stabilize and redevelop the housing authority's entire portfolio, according to the press release.

Garrett said he wants public housing residents living in Wilmington to know he will advocate for them in a big way.

"I am their biggest advocate," he said, "and I hope to prove that over the next few months."

Reporter Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or edill@gannett.com.