Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) Board of Commissioners, meeting in executive session, Monday night chose Ray O. Priest, a 17-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and past president and CEO of the National Congress for Community and Economic Development, as its interim executive director to succeed the recently resigned William Dearman.
Priest now heads his own consulting firm working for clients in both the non-profit and for-profit arenas. He will start fulltime with ARHA beginning the middle of June, according to A. Melvin Miller, who has now returned to his role as chairman of the ARHA Board of Commissioners.
"Priest will work several days this week and next while he finishes several consulting assignments. I expect him on board fulltime by mid month," Miller said.
"By appointing him as the interim executive director I can now return to the chairmanship of the Board. However, I will also remain as deputy executive director until Priest is here every day," he said.
In addition to his years at HUD, Priest served as the head of the District of Columbia Redevelopment/Land Agency. One of his primary clients as a consultant has been the Ford Foundation.
"Most of his years with HUD were spent working in the area of community development. He served as Director of Community Development in HUD's Buffalo office," Miller said.
"We have also put our application on the street to find a search firm that will conduct our search for a permanent executive director. We hope to have a firm selected by mid July," he said.
"But, it won't be an easy search. There are a lot of people out there with experience as directors of housing, but not many with experience in both housing and redevelopment," Miller explained.
"If we're lucky, the search will take about six months. If we’re not it could be up to a year," he said. "But, we are very lucky to have gotten Priest."
That assessment was buttressed by ARHA Board Vice Chairman Carlyle C. "Connie" Ring, who served, along with Board member Kerry-Ann Powell, as a two person search committee to locate and recommend an interim director.
"We are very fortunate to have [Priest] available to us for the next six months to a year while we are conducting a nationwide search for a fulltime person," Ring said. "He comes highly recommended by the Ford Foundation and others."