Housing CEO Search Might End Wednesday
by NPT Staff
Posted on November 28, 2005
The El Paso Housing Authority, which canceled a hastily called special meeting Nov. 23, will meet Wednesday (Nov. 30) to consider approving a contract for a new executive director, among the other scheduled agenda items. [agenda]
The Wednesday meeting will follow a hectic few weeks in which an applicant was picked Nov. 16, and the special meeting called for Nov. 23 -- either to offer the second-running candidate a contract while two board members were out of town or simply to allow the mayor to address the board, depending on who’s talking -- raised questions about parliamentary maneuvering on both sides of the issue.
The selection process had become openly contentious, with Commissioner Larry Medina pushing for the selection of the second-ranking candidate, Jorge Salazar. Pablo Salcido, the commission’s top choice, was picked at the Nov. 16 meeting.
At that meeting, Medina’s initial motion to hire Salazar failed 3-2, with him and Commissioner David Escobar in the minority. The following motion, to hire Salcido, passed 4-1, with Medina dissenting.
Medina said he and Escobar called the Nov. 23 meeting at the request of Mayor John Cook, and it was not an attempt to hire Salazar while two of the commissioners were out of town, leaving Medina and Escobar as a two-person majority.
The meeting was canceled when a third commissioner could not attend, leaving the board short of a quorum, which Medina in turn interpreted as a calculated effort to avoid the special meeting.
“The mayor wanted to direct some comments to the whole board. He wanted to just make sure the commissioners were all working for the benefit of the city,” Medina said. Medina, who said Salcido is his second choice and would be a good CEO for the Housing Authority, said he is concerned with the salary requirements for Salcido.
The position was advertised as starting at $135,000; the previous director made about $185,000, and Salcido in his initial application put his salary range at about $200,000.
Cook said he was not going to tell commissioners who to vote for.
However, he said, he wanted to tell the entire board to “be careful not to set the bar too high.”
“I would prefer if they make sure they follow what the solicitation said, to start with an opening salary of $135,000, but it could be higher based upon experience with housing or other similar experience ... maybe keep it in line with the city manager, who makes $165,000,” Cook said.
Joe Oliva, board chairman, said Salcido represents a “superstar performer” with contacts in Washington and high-level references, including one from former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.
“They’re both very good candidates. Mr. Salcido is just better. I don’t believe that by saving the Housing Authority $20,000 to $30,000 we’re doing residents any favors in picking someone who is responsible for getting and handling millions and millions of dollars. It would be pennywise and pound foolish,” Oliva said. “We need a leader to not just come in and run the Housing Authority but move it to the next notch.”
He said he believes the Housing Authority presents a completely different challenge than does the city, and comparing the position of city manager to authority CEO is “apples to oranges.”
Salcido, a former general manager of KINT and an El Paso native, worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Central America, Mexico and Asia in the early 1990s; as a corporate director of EDMI in Monterrey in the mid-90s; and again for USAID since 2000, most recently as Deputy Director for Municipal Development and Democratic Initiatives in Honduras. He has a 1978 B.A. from Sherman College in Austin, and a 1983 M.P.A. from UT Austin.
Salazar, also a native El Pasoan, is administrator of the La Fe Community Development Corporation. Prior to that he was a 2003 Annie E. Casey Foundation National Leadership Fellow, a prestigious one-year program; associate director of La Fe from 1995 to 2003; and executive director of the El Paso County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Services in the early 1990s. He has a 1973 B.A. in political science from UTEP, and a 1978 M.A. from Texas Tech in public administration.
“If you study the two resumes one stands out. Maybe that’s why the difference in salary,” Oliva said. “I would hope the dollar issue is not being utilized to cancel out the collective decision of the board.”
Medina said “my differences was basically his (Salazar’s) heart. In my opinion they are equally qualified in education and experience.”
“I'll work with Pablo Salcido, I'll work with his salary arrangement. I know I don’t have the votes,” Medina said. “He was my number two choice, not my number eight, or it would have been different.”
Both agreed the pick was critical.
“Whoever becomes CEO and president will overseer approximately 35,000 residents, each with their own unique problems, and also will oversee approximately 12,000 housing units divided into five complex categories, and approximately 500 employees,” Oliva said. The total annual budget will be about $80 million per year, he said.
“The Housing Authority has a humongous responsibility right now; we’re facing huge cuts in federal financing, which is 70 percent of our budget,” Oliva said.
The latest discussion about the Housing Authority CEO follows battles over who would be on the board [article] (ironically, one of the former board members associated with the Wardy administration -- Gerald Mangrum, was appointed by Cook to the Ethics Commission last week [article] and who the CEO would be -- the former board almost hired Jim Martinez, an assistant city attorney under former Mayor Joe Wardy. [article]
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Sito Negron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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