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Brian Connor calls Griffin 'a true leader.'

Interviews for Griffin successor in mid-December 

John Griffin retired as the executive director of the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) on Oct. 31, bringing to an end a career that spanned more than three decades of service to the state agency.

“After 30 years of service to the Arlington Housing Authority, it is time for a change, and time for me to retire,” wrote Griffin in his Oct. 1 letter to the board. “I have been honored to work with many caring and professional board members over the years, as well as the entire staff of the AHA. I have enjoyed the many residents and their families.”

The AHA is the town’s largest provider of public housing. The state agency was founded in 1948, and provides more than 700 rental units to one thousand-plus low-income, disabled and elderly residents. It also administers 422 Section 8 housing vouchers in Arlington.

Career dates to 1989

Griffin began his housing career as an elected commissioner in 1989, winning his seat in townwide elections until 2006, when he resigned to accept the executive director position with the Bedford Housing Authority. One year later, he returned to accept the leadership position at the AHA, to replace Franklin J. Hurd, who retired after many years as executive director.

Last April, Griffin was initially granted a three-month leave of absence for undisclosed reasons, and the board appointed operations manager Jack Nagle as the interim executive director. In July, AHA Chair Brian Connor said that Griffin asked “for additional medical leave” and that the authority would take his ongoing absence “one day at a time.”

His retirement opens the door to new leadership at a time when the authority is facing budgetary concerns, an aging portfolio (Cusack Terrace is the latest building, constructed in 1983), ongoing issues related to the pandemic and the impact of climate change and energy costs on the buildings and residents.

In an email to YourArlington, Connor called Griffin “a true leader [who] secured millions and millions of dollars in funding” for the authority. He praised Griffin’s long tenure, writing, “he’s been a stable force here.”

The executive director position is advertised through Nov. 30, at which time a five-member executive search committee, composed of board members, staff and a tenant president, will review and interview candidates.

Watch the entire Nov. 17 regular meeting broadcast on ACMi:

Connor said by email that the plan is “to have the committee conduct interviews the week of Dec. 6, the full board and [resident] interviews the week of the 13th and the hiring soon thereafter.”

Chris Partridge replaces Bob Cronin 

The board accepted the Dec. 3 retirement of Bob Cronin, director of maintenance, and in a special Nov. 9 board meeting, also announced the hiring of Chris Partridge as the director of the expanded position of maintenance and modernization. 

“We had 41 applicants,” said Connor, “and we did four candidate interviews. Ultimately, the [search] committee felt that Chris Partridge was the most qualified candidate.”

Nagle said that “we’re excited to have an internal candidate with the qualifications that Chris has. We’re already starting to talk about some great things and some great initiatives in ways that we can manage and move the authority forward.”

Partridge, who has been with the authority since 2019, takes over a department that manages the ongoing and planned maintenance work for four high-rise buildings, 250 apartment and dwelling-style units, and a smattering of standalone properties of mixed use and construction.

Several multimillion-dollar projects are forecast in the coming fiscal years, including the proposed $4 million-to-$6 million window-replacement project at Menotomy Manor, property-wide parking lot repaving and sidewalk replacement, mechanical and equipment upgrades and building exterior renovations.

Additionally, he will assume management of a daily work-order system, which addresses residents’ maintenance requests and has been a source of friction between residents and management.  

“I’m a systems-oriented person,” said Partridge. “I have a spreadsheet design for a customer-improvement process with regard to work orders. The goal over time is to have [the maintenance clerk Lisa Rameior] reach out to tenants and have them be able to rate our level of service. The more knowledge we have, the smarter we are as a group, the better we can do.”

Commissioner Gaar Talanian called Partridge “a listener. His personality is perfect for this job, and I think he’ll be great at it.”

Partridge thanked Griffin and Cronin for their “personal support of me. They laid some great groundwork which we are building on now.”

Other personnel moves 

The pending executive director appointment will be the sixth personnel change in the authority since last spring in the departments of maintenance, administrative and resident services.

In the special meeting Nov. 9 (ACMi video below), Connor indicated that more shifts are to come. “You’ll see in further meetings Jack’s restructuring of staff members.”

Interim director updates 

Nagle announced that Operation Success, an award-winning program that provides homework help and guidance to children of Menotomy Manor in grades kindergarten to grade five, resumed services at the Life and Skills Center, on Fremont Street in the East Arlington complex.

Prepandemic, the evening homework-help program ran five nights per week during the school year with support from teachers and volunteers and the use of onsite computers and printers.

The authority continues to participate in the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance Program, known as SHERA, and has distributed $30,000 “in rental assistance for residents in need of this rental subsidy,” Nagle said. “This program helps residents maintain their tenancy and address financial hardships related to Covid."

With regards to Covid, Nagle said that the state is offering an at-home vaccination program for eligible residents, although the authority is “working [with the town] to see if holding a booster clinic at our sites is a viable option.”

The Menotomy Manor window-replacement project got a potential financial boost from the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which has approved the year 2023 application – as well as the Hauser roof-replacement funding request – to move on to the next stage of the application process. Commissioner Jo Anne Preston serves on the CPA and has worked with Nagle to submit the extensive documentation required.

Other projects previously reported on continue apace and on schedule, according to Nagle.

Operating budget, housing-funding updates 

Accountant Rich Conlon updated the board about the authority’s result of operations for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, showing profits and losses in program, housing and capital-needs areas.

“Overall, I think the housing authority does very well,” Conlon said. “You’re a big housing authority – in the top 10 of housing authorities. But you’re in the top five of those in getting things done and operations wise. You have good reserves for the future.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the certification of the year-end financial statement as well as a transfer of $200,000 from the services trust fund to affordable housing.

“We did a transfer last year of $600,000. That basically is some of the antenna money that comes in and is being set aside for affordable housing in the future. That’s how we buy houses outside of the state portfolio, Conlon said.

In a memo to Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Nagle requested that the town “consider providing $500,000 to $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the Arlington Housing Authority to purchase two, [existing and built] two-bedroom condos. Since 1981, we have acquired eight condos and one house . . . which we have successfully managed.”

More from the Nov. 17 AHA board meeting will be reported.

Watch the entire Nov. 9 special meeting broadcast on ACMi:

Oct. 27, 2021: Leadership issues remain in limbo at housing authority

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.