Starr gets interim Housing Authority director job

Housing Authority of Clayton County attorney Kirby Glaze explains the process of hiring an interim executive director for the authority Thursday night.

Housing Authority of Clayton County attorney Kirby Glaze explains the process of hiring an interim executive director for the authority Thursday night.

— Former Clayton County County Manager Wade Starr survived a last-minute challenge from the county’s HUD coordinator and was appointed to be the Housing Authority of Clayton County’s temporary leader Thursday night.

The authority’s Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to name Starr as its interim executive director, with Commissioner Rubye Harris-Ball casting the lone ‘nay’ vote. Six weeks ago, the board hired Starr as an independent consultant to learn how to run the authority with the intention of eventually making him the interim director.

The board had to choose between Starr and county HUD Administrator Mickie Williams in what came down to a case of members favoring his decades of administrative experience in county government over her years of experience in dealing with housing issues.

“It was a tough decision to do so,” said board Chairman Curtis Green after the vote. “Of course, we just learned tonight that Mrs. Williams was interested so we had to consider that, but we had to look at what we had decided to do earlier and we decided to stay the course.”

Starr is expected to begin leading the authority Monday. He replaces outgoing Executive Director Linda Valentine, who stepped down Friday after nearly 19 years with the agency. He will be paid an annual salary of $57,500.

While Starr runs the authority, its board will turn its attention toward conducting a search for a permanent executive director. Green said the search process is expected to take three to six months to complete.

“We want to make sure we get it advertised and give everybody who wants to apply an opportunity to do so,” he said.

The Housing Authority board spent much of the night going in and out of closed door sessions during the meeting.

The board discussed whether it wanted to create an interim position during first executive session. If board members voted against it, their attorney, Kirby Glaze, told them Green would automatically assume the executive director’s duties while a search for Valentine’s permanent director was conducted.

Starr and WIlliams then pitched themselves to the board during an open session.

Williams touted her experience working with HUD and Neighborhood Stabilization Programs in the county as a reason why she should be picked.

“I have over 40 years of direct experience in housing,” she said.

Starr told commissioners he was the better choice because he had spent years working in county government, including stints as county manager under former Chairman Eldrin Bell and as an assistant to former Chairman Crandle Bray.

“Where this housing authority stands it needs, to me, somebody who has managerial and executive experience,” Starr said.

Commissioners then had the option of discussing which candidate they prefered in public or in executive session, but choosing to go into executive session created an awkward situation.

One commissioner, Tonya Clarke, was participating in the meeting by phone and Glaze explained that she could not participate in the executive session because there was no way to make sure someone wasn’t listening in on the deliberations via her phone line.

“You can discuss it in open session,” Glaze said. “Executive session is just a privilege you have at your disposal.”

But, board members said they preferred to conduct the discussions in executive session thereby leaving Clarke without a chance to participate in the deliberations.