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Our Opinion: Take this job and …

April 28, 2002

"What kind of idiot would want that freakin' thankless job?" one of our editors shrieked when talk of the Calexico Housing Authority's search for an executive director came up.

There seemed to be consensus in the newsroom. No one would want that job, despite a generous salary.

The reason? The turmoil in the Calexico Housing Authority makes the West Bank look almost placid.

Let's see: the authority's last permanent director was run out of office by residents and certain members of the authority's board of commissioners for a few reasons, topped probably by their not liking her personally; the board replaced her with an "everyone gets to wear the chief's hat" philosophy in which employees would rotate through as interim director on a monthly basis, a plan that was quickly scrapped; that setup was replaced by one to have one "permanent" interim, director which has resulted in a merry-go-round anyway of interim directors quickly leaving or being run out of the job; now the authority is being run on its interim basis by its chief mechanic.


On top of all that, there's the regular turnover of board commissioners because of personal disputes and city politics; the sniping of a group of residents who don't seem to have anything better to do than take potshots at those trying to run the Calexico Housing Authority; and federal housing officials who are increasingly watchful and unhappy with the goings-on in within the authority.

It is an absolute quagmire, virtual quicksand for anyone who would venture in as executive director.

The latest interim director, Peter Castro, has done well so far to not start sinking. At a recent meeting, he was personable, attentive and seemed to really care about working with the commissioners for the betterment of the authority's thousands of residents. We think he's doing great so far (it's been less than a week). Still, the authority needs an experienced administrator.

According to a Housing Authority commissioner, three candidates interviewed for the job won't be coming on board. One wanted too much money and was turned away, another was turned away for not speaking Spanish and a third was rejected for not yet publicized reasons.

We would think that if any of these candidates had truly investigated what they might be getting into, they would have not taken the job for double the salary.

Something needs to be done to make the Calexico Housing Authority function with something less than constant turmoil. We would suggest scrapping the entire commission, despite there being some good people on it, and starting from scratch, with the City Council appointing new commission members. Some of those folks who have done a good job on the commission could apply for a position on a newly constituted board. With a thorough house-cleaning the authority might be able to attract a top person for the executive director job.

The Housing Authority's job is to provide safe, affordable housing for lower-income people. It is still doing that in a decent fashion, although we don't know how long that will continue if such discord is allowed to go on and on.

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