Tracewell Hanrahan, deputy executive director of the Fresno Housing Authority welcomes guests to the groundbreaking for 250 Calaveras St.

Tracewell Hanrahan, deputy executive director of the Fresno Housing Authority welcomes guests to the groundbreaking for 250 Calaveras St.

Members of the board of commissioners of the Housing Authorities of the City and County of Fresno were supposed to name an interim CEO during its Tuesday evening meeting, but after nearly three hours in a closed session, they announced that no action had been taken.

“There is nothing to report out this evening,” Cary Catalano, county chair of the Fresno Housing Boards of Commissioners, said.

The board was expected to appoint Tracewell Hanrahan, presently the deputy executive director and chief financial officer of the housing authority, to lead the agency — the largest housing provider in Fresno County. Hanrahan has been with the Fresno Housing Authority since 2011. What happens next is uncertain.

Before the commissioners went into a closed session to deliberate on the appointment, representatives of several community organizations — including the Central Valley Urban Institute, Fresno Barrios Unidos and Black Women’s Health Project — urged the agency to appoint a leader who understood the challenges the community faced. Most spoke against the appointment of Hanrahan.

Continuity, or a fresh face?

“I’m here to ask that the Board of Commissioners lead with the shared values, like the importance of community and protecting its staff and residents, and disrupting a toxic culture and status quo leadership,” said LaTisha Harris, of the Black Women’s Health Project. “We need a leader who is physically present at that time, and I have to say our current deputy executive director is not it and has not been that leader.”

Keisha Thomas, a member of the Fresno Unified School District board, told the board of commissioners that the person they select must be in tune with “what is expected from them here in Fresno now.”

“It is my belief that Miss Tracewell will not be the person for the job.” Thomas said. “We’re trying to create a new city of equity here in Fresno, and it’s been so far missed and removed that people of color are constantly getting pushed out.”

Monique Thomas, who described herself as a long-term resident of the agency’s public housing, cited Hanrahan’s lack of consistency among other concerns. Hanrahan lives in New Orleans.

“I don’t agree with Tracewell Hanrahan, and I hope that’s not the decision that will be made,” Monique Thomas said. “It’s not for me; it’s for my kids, and this is coming from a Black woman that was born and raised in Fresno, California.”

However, Doni Truax, a housing specialist at the agency since 2002, asked the board to hire Hanrahan as interim CEO because “this will allow continuity in all of our housing programs.”

“I am asking for us to be part of the process as an agency and to have Tracewell nominated and put in as interim CEO,” Truax said. “I need this consistency. All of us need this consistency.”

Truax said she has paid attention to “all of the different parts and pieces of this agency” and knows that “we have a very good team that is together, that is heading those same directions.”

She argued that despite not being “here in Fresno full time,” Hanrahan “is the right person to do this.” I don’t believe that that will ever be an issue for her that would cause us anything that would be bad.”

According to her profile on the Fresno Housing Authority’s website, Hanrahan oversees all agency operations, including the Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing programs, as well as Resident Services. She also assists the executive director in ensuring the day-to-day management of the agency.

Before joining the Housing Authority, Hanrahan was the executive officer for School Leadership at Fresno Unified School District where she served on the superintendent’s executive cabinet and co-chaired the Commission on Workforce Readiness and Career Technical Education.

A comprehensive search process

Eric Payne, executive director of the Central Valley Urban Institute, asked the board members to consider the “vital role the Fresno Housing Authority plays in overseeing new affordable housing development, family self sufficiency programs, education and small business contracting opportunities and then supporting policies that help the sector thrive” as they choose the new leader.

Payne urged the board to retain “an outside search firm for an acting CEO and a national search firm for the permanent CEO position” that should include a diverse 16 member search committee.

Briana Zweifer, Youth Law and Policy attorney with Fresno Barrios Unidos, disagreed. “inviting an external search firm would be damaging to both this agency’s standing in the community as well as as people in Fresno,” Zweifer said. “We highly recommend a diverse search committee of folks who are homegrown, who really understand what poverty and its consequences mean in this area.”

She asked the board “to make this process as fair and open to community engagement as possible.”

What’s next?

Preston Prince, outgoing CEO, will depart March 31 to become the executive director of the Santa Clara County Housing Authority.

Cary Catalan_fitted.jpeg
Cary Catalano Fresno Bee archive

When Prince’s departure was announced on Feb. 4, Catalano had said that the entire board will be discussing the next steps in choosing and announcing a new leader within the next few weeks. According to Prince, the Fresno Housing Board of Commissioners has a succession plan that it will most likely use to select the new CEO.

Catalano declined to comment on what the next steps would be.

Largest housing provider in county

The Fresno Housing Authority provides housing services to approximately 50,000 residents throughout Fresno County.

The agency’s housing choice voucher program (also known as Section 8) issues 13,000 HUD vouchers to about 38,000 people, including approximately 17,000 children. The agency also operates public housing throughout Fresno County that accommodates about 11,000 residents, including 5,500 children. Additionally, the Fresno Housing Authority provides housing assistance through a mix of low-income housing tax credits, grants, and/or conventional funding.

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