Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Fresno Housing Authority boards of commissioners held a special meeting to introduce the two candidates being considered to fill the CEO/Executive Director position. The first candidate up to the podium was Tyrone Williams, currently the deputy executive director at Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. Followed by Lindsay Fox, current president and CEO of the United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties. 

  • An ad-hoc committee has been involved in the hiring process and they were also introduced: Laurie Doyle with Affordable Housing Development Corporation, Emilia Reyes of Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and Artie Padilla of the Central Valley Community Foundation.

The meeting (in full)

The Scene

The Fresno Housing Authority special meeting of the boards of commissioners took place on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. The joint board meeting packet states that due to executive order N-25-20, the meeting will be held in-person for commissioners only and accessible via teleconference and Zoom for all members of the public. Meeting recordings are not easily available online.

The Fresno Housing Authority is governed by 14 commissioners, seven of whom are appointed as city commissioners and seven as county commissioners. Five of the city commissioners are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Fresno to serve four-year, staggered terms. Two are appointed to two-year terms from among residents receiving housing assistance from Fresno Housing. Similarly, five of the county commissioners are appointed by the Board of Supervisors, and two are residents receiving assistance from Fresno Housing.

City Commissioners:

Adrian Jones, Chairperson (also Marriage and Family Therapist at North Star Wellness Group)

Caine Christensen, Vice Chair (also Director of Student Support Services for Fresno Unified)

Sabrina Kelley, Commissioner (also Community Relations Consultant and Foundation Officer for Wells Fargo Bank )

Stacy Vaillancourt, Commissioner (also Chief Administrative Officer for Saint Agnes Medical Center)

Sharon Williams, Commissioner (also retired Fresno Juvenile Hall counselor)

Ruby Yanez, Commissioner

Vacant, Commissioner (open due to the resignation of Terra Brusseau prior to the July 9 meeting)

County Commissioners:

Cary Catalano, Chairperson (also owner of Catalano Fenske & Associates)

Nikki Henry, Vice Chair (also CIO for Fresno Unified School District)

Joey Fuentes, Commissioner (also trainer and mentor at Fresno’s Main Event boxing)

Valori Gallaher, Commissioner (also Caruthers School Boardmember)

Edugiben Ortiz, Commissioner (one of two resident commissioners)

Sophia Ramos, Commissioner (also registered nurse)

Stacy Sablan, Commissioner (also owner of Sablan Legal Services)

It appeared that all commissioners were seated at tables wearing face masks when the meeting began. It was noted that since all commissioners were present they did not need to do roll call. 

Tiffany Mangum, special assistant to the housing authority’s CEO, ran the meeting and communicated with the public via Zoom.

No public comments were made. 

Consent items:

  • Approved the agenda as posted. 

The public portion of the meeting adjourned quickly at 8:41 a.m. The commissioners then moved into a closed session to discuss the CEO position. Catalano said they would reconvene for open session at 1:50 p.m.

The former CEO/Executive Director, Preston Prince, left to accept a position with Santa Clara Housing Authority in March. Angie Nguyen has been serving as the interim CEO since. 

The commission reconvened for open session at 1:50 p.m. They reported that they have no action to report. 

They asked the public ad-hoc committee members to introduce themselves to the public: Laurie Doyle with Affordable Housing Development Corporation, Emilia Reyes of Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and Artie Padilla of the Central Valley Community Foundation 

Then, Chair Jones announced that the two finalists were: Tyrone Williams and Lindsay Fox. 

She said they would each be given up to 15 minutes to present to the public and members of the public would be given no more than one minute to ask questions. She said they would only be answering questions from the public, not from the commissioners. 

The first candidate up to the podium was Tyrone Williams. He is currently the deputy executive director at Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which has 400 employees. He said he grew up in Texas and his father was a teacher and grandfather was a contractor. He has been married for 34 years and has two adult daughters. After high school, he attended M.I.T. and received his master’s in city planning specializing in real estate development. 

Williams said that his experience has prepared him to come to Fresno. “I’m at a point in my career where I’m looking to have greater impact and influence,” he said. “This community, this awesome opportunity offers that to me.” He said there are a lot of similarities between Fresno Housing and the Sacramento Housing Agency. 

“My vision is for an agency that exemplifies a commitment to organizational and operational excellence, while embracing holistic, inclusive community development principles and providing opportunities where residents are valued and provided with housing options that meet their needs and are provided with services that enable them to thrive,” he said. 

He said his focus would be on expanding housing options and on ensuring people come first. “We have an opportunity not only to provide housing for them, but to change the trajectory of their lives,” Williams said. “To shift generations out of poverty, to raise poverty-level thinking to opportunity-level thinking.” 

It was then open for questions from the public:

  • Doreen Eley asked if he could describe who he feels the residents and participants are.

    • Williams said it is individuals from a wide spectrum. Some are disabled and if not for public housing they would not have a housing option. Some are seniors and it’s important for them to provide a place where they can age in place. Some residents are from the streets and they have finally gotten the opportunity to come, “off the ramp.” Some of them are families that are struggling that now rely on Fresno Housing as their only option and last resort. Then there are some people in between that this is a stop on their way to market rate and even home ownership. 

  • Jessica asked how he could possibly approach balancing scarce resources across disenfranchised and chronically underserved neighborhoods with the goal of affirmatively providing housing and pushing into areas of higher opportunity.

    • He said it is his department that oversees fair housing in Sacramento. He said they must be committed to fair housing and it’s not an option. Sometimes it means they need to pay more for property in better neighborhoods to end the cycle of recycling housing in neighborhoods where there is limited opportunity. He said ultimately it comes down to priorities and if their priority is aligning housing with areas of opportunity then they will have to pay for that. 

  • Aurora Ibarra asked what he thinks the unique challenges are to residents in Fresno County and their respective cities, and his plan to address those challenges. 

    • He said he thinks there are a lot of single parents who don’t see ways of moving out of their current financial situation. He said the best way to create opportunity is to create ladders to help them. “Public housing was meant to be a stop on the way to somewhere else for so many of our residents and so many of them parked,” he said. So he wants to provide options for them to get, “up and out.” 

  • Lucinda asked for his thoughts on the DEI work that is a movement nationally and how would they guide them? 

    • He said as an African American male in a white-dominated industry, he’s been doing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) work. He said he got a full scholarship to MIT. “Equity across this agency will be a top priority,” he said. He went on to say equity in pay and equity in opportunity for advancement would be a focus as well as inclusion for asking who is not at the table and including them and encouraging them to speak. 

In closing, Williams briefly removed his mask and said, “hello Fresno,” before leaving the podium. 

Jones then introduced the second candidate, Lindsay Fox, who took the podium. She is the current president and CEO of the United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties. She grew up in Fresno and spent time in Sacramento doing state-wide work learning about public policy, philanthropy. In 2004, when she had her first child she wanted to raise them in Fresno and make a difference in the lives of children in Fresno.

“It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to apply for a job like this that is so well-positioned to make real long-lasting change for families in our community,” she said.  

She said now is the time for her to move on from the United Way and make space for someone else to carry out the mission of that organization. She said that Fresno Housing would offer her a new challenge for her and she can bring a lot to the organization. She said she would work within Fresno Housing to close racial wealth gap, improve education, improve opportunities and provide experiences that are so unique that change people’s lives.

She said she isn’t the, “status quo,” and she owns it now and that her leadership isn’t about her, but about the people she is surrounded by and finding ways to empower and inspire them. She said that she would describe herself as, “super practical with a big dose of hope.”

“Imagine a world where we don’t look at people as broken, but we look at them for what they can potentially contribute to the community,” Fox said. “Everyone has something to give no matter how small it is.” 

“Neighborhoods aren’t destroyed, broken places that need heroes to swoop in and fix them,” she continued. “They’re assets in our communities, they’re beautiful places, we need to build on what’s already there instead of pretending that we have the answers from on high.” 

She went on to say that while the mission is about providing housing, it’s about more than housing, it’s about creating much more. “I dream of a Fresno where all of my neighbors have safe places to live and work, and pathways to generational wealth,” Fox said. 

“I’m not the status quo, I don’t have a ton of experience in public housing, but what I do bring is fresh eyes and an understanding of how all this fits together,” she said. 

It was then open for questions from the public: 

  • A woman asked what strategies she would use to engage those who are hesitant to engage in DEI work? 

    • She said she would work to identify strategies and that it needs to get to a place where it is the norm. 

  • Doreen asked if she could tell her more about her vision in terms of creating opportunity for residents? 

    • Fox said she wants to provide residents with the biggest opportunities possible. If they want to be homebuyers or save money to go back to school, they can figure that out. She said ultimately it is about building generational wealth and everything that comes with that: access to bank accounts, homebuying, etc. 

  • Jessica asked what she sees as the greatest strength of Fresno Housing and also what are the challenges? 

    • Fox said the advancements on DEI, expertise from the staff and leadership team.

  • An anonymous question asked what is her vision for permanent supportive public housing in the region? 

    • Fox answered that real estate is going to get hotter in the next decade, so they need to secure property now while it’s affordable so they have the stock in the future. 

  • Roseanne asked if her plans will include a staff resource to handle all of the goals that the agency seeks to do? 

    • She said she would look forward to learning and having conversations about that to identify what the needs are, whether that’s time, staff, training, connections or resources. 

  • Another caller asked what she meant by impacted, whether that was impacted by poverty or systemic racism that leads to poverty? Also how to include Fresno Housing vision in FHA in the future? 

    • She said she would like to find understanding by talking directly to residents and former residents. 

  • Another anonymous question was submitted asking what the resources for sustainability housing is? 

    • She said there isn’t just one solution and some of them may not even be housing authority solutions, but may be resources they are leveraging or connecting residents to. “My solution to this is really a whole community approach to provide the right individualized services,” she said. 

As Fox left the podium, Catalano told her to tell her dad hello. He said he was his dean of students. 

Jones said at 3:05 p.m. that they would go into closed session. 

They reconvened at 4:52 p.m. and had nothing to report from the closed session. 

The meeting adjourned at 4:53 p.m. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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