New chief for housing selected

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011



LAPLACE – Less than three months after starting the search for a new executive director, the St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority announced Friday that the agency has hired a Baton Rouge woman to take the helm.

Trina Henderson, who has more than 15 years experience working in public housing agencies across the state, was chosen from among 22 other applicants who submitted resumes for the position. She was the top choice of a seven-person community group appointed to help select the Housing Authority’s new leader. Henderson is the fourth executive director for the St. John Parish Housing Authority in two years.

“I’m looking forward to working with the board and the tenants, and I thank the board for entrusting me,” Henderson said.

Henderson is currently employed by Innovative Emergency Management, where she analyzes small rental property program policies and procedures and assists staff to modify them. Her past experience includes a stint as team leader of the CDBG Homeowner Assistance Monitoring Program for the Road Home Program and director of resident services and director of management with the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority, where she directed 1,053 public housing units as well as an 82-unit multifamily complex.

As executive director for the St. John Parish Housing Authority, Henderson will manage four housing complex with 300 units and also 390 units of Section 8 housing. She said prior to the interviews that she had taken drives around the parish’s four housing developments to get a feel for the culture of the community and the residents occupying units. She said she understands the challenge that lies ahead.

“We have some work to do,” Henderson said. “We have a responsibility to take care of the residents and the problems that come up, but we also need help from them. We want them to feel safe living here.”

Henderson said she wants to work on getting tenants on board with improving the agency. So also said the staff needs to look internally to fix some of the problems that have plagued the agency over the past few years. The Housing Authority has been on the U.S, Department of Housing and Urban Development’s troubled list after an audit revealed poor accounting practices, lax rent collection and missing federal grant money of more than $1 million.

“I’ve seen what a housing authority can do with a strong community behind it,” Henderson said. “I want more residents to see these units as their home. We need to take pride in what we have.”

St. John Housing Authority Board President Iona Holloway said Henderson was in the top three of the six final candidates chosen by the citizens committee.

and that she “blew us out of the water with her interview.”

“One of the concerns we shared with her was that ex-executive directors didn’t train the staff,” Holloway said. “The next day she came with a packet of training opportunities for staff near here. We hadn’t even decided who we were going to hire yet.”

During the interview process, Housing Authority Commissioner Melissa Faucheaux described Henderson as having a “humble confidence” as she answered questions from the housing board and citizens group.

“There was this settling feeling I think we all had in talking to her before we offered her the job,” Faucheaux said. “I think we all feel that she will do what is best for this agency.”

The Housing Authority has been without an executive director since May, when board members fired Richard “Dale” Wolfe, citing numerous contract and policy violations. The board has also been completely overhauled since that point with only one member remaining from the previous board.

Other candidates in the top six in line for the position included Edgard resident Lester Rainey Jr., Gretna resident Metra Haynes, New Orleans resident Larry Jones, Pearl River resident Chiquita McGowan and Philadelphia resident Marc Starling.