An agent of change
For one reason or another, the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority was a mess just a couple of years ago. A sort of night-and-day transformation has occurred, and it provides an important lesson for those who oversee local government agencies.
More than 660 units of public housing are administered by the JMHA. Most units are in Steubenville, though there are others in Toronto, Tiltonsville and Yorkville.
By all reports, JMHA housing is safe, clean and well-maintained. That was not always the situation. Not long ago, some residents of housing units complained that no one in authority cared about their concerns.
JMHA board members did, but seemed unable to light the proverbial fire under authority employees to make improvements. That seems to have changed when the board hired Melody McClurg, who had experience in a wide variety of fields, as executive director of the authority.
One statistic makes what happened next clear: When McClurg assumed her post, there were 2,266 work orders for repairs, cleaning and other housing-related tasks. Now, the number has been reduced to about 164.
“So much has changed, it’s unbelievable,” remarked Liz Smith, who lives in a JMHA apartment. “We got the help we needed, finally.”
As McClurg herself points out, it would be inaccurate to credit any one person with the change. Therein lies her value as what some would call a “change agent.”
Before she took over, “apathy had set in,” McClurg said, adding, “but we have a great team here now. We’re on one mission. We have one goal.”
As so often is the case when a team is not performing well, responsibility lies with the leader. McClurg was able to work a change in attitudes that made the good people on the JMHA team do their jobs better.
Good for her and good for them. But more important, good for the JMHA board which had the perceptiveness to see a leader in McClurg and the courage, amid some criticism, to hire her. Again, the situation is a case study for other local officials facing challenges in all sorts of public endeavors.