Citizens interested in serving on the new Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority board have until Monday to apply.
Applicants must be residents of Pitkin County and available to be interviewed by the 10 city and county elected officials in an open meeting on July 9. The new board will replace the current board on Aug. 1.
Submissions are being accepted through Pitkin County’s website under the “citizen boards” tab. Interested parties are asked their address, occupation, educational background, hobbies and associated member organizations.
The APCHA board of directors will no longer be strictly a citizen board, however. An updated agreement between the city of Aspen and Pitkin County in May changed the governance structure so that elected officials would also serve on the board and all policy decisions would be final. The new board will have five voting members and three alternates. The city council and Pitkin County commissioners will each supply one voting member and one alternate and citizens will make up three voting members and one alternate. As of Tuesday, only one application had been submitted.
As it is now, the APCHA board consists entirely of appointed residents, whose work on policy changes needs to be approved by both city council and the commissioners. This has made for a lengthy implementation process when all three bodies agree and led to outright standstills when the two elected boards do not see eye to eye.
“We are looking forward to this board being able to react more quickly as changes happen in the APCHA housing stock,” said Phylis Mattice, deputy county manager.
With two elected officials on the board reporting back to their bodies and getting their colleagues to weigh in on upcoming votes, all APCHA board decisions will now be final.
This week city council voted to appoint Skippy Mesirow to the APCHA board with Rachel Richards serving as the alternate. The county has yet to formally nominate its members, though commissioners have discussed George Newman serving on the board and Kelly McNicholas Kury serving as the alternate. Both Richards and McNicholas Kury are residents of APCHA’s workforce housing inventory.
The one submitted application is from a current APCHA board member. Two other members of the current board have resigned in the last month. Dallas Blaney moved to Carbondale and no longer meets the county residency requirements. Ron Erickson had been serving as board chairperson, but stepped down stating that he felt he was term-limited.
Erickson said he will not be applying for the new board, but agrees that speeding along the process from proposal to policy is a positive step.
“We were doing plenty of work, it was just nothing was getting done when we were passing it on,” Erickson said. “I like the idea that APCHA is finally going to be able to make its own decisions.”
In the past the citizen board was tasked with enforcing tenant and landlord compliance with APCHA policies, as well as adjudicating cases when residents were not following the rules. A paid staff member now takes care of compliance and APCHA is seeking funding approval to hire a contract hearing officer as well. This means the new board would be freed up to focus the majority of its time on policy issues.
The new intergovernmental agreement didn’t address all governance aspects that came up during discussions between the two elected bodies this spring. Still to be decided is if the APCHA executive director — who is a city employee, as are the rest of the APCHA staff — would report to the new board of directors or to the city manager, as is the status quo.
Many other questions linger before the switch-out takes place. The elected bodies have not decided what metrics they will use to evaluate citizen applicants, or how the vote will be taken as to who makes the cut. Currently citizens serving on the board represent the city or county specifically, but it is not clear if the candidates’ residency between city and county lines will be considered, or if elected officials will prioritize those who have experience with the housing authority.
“It would be nice to have a diverse background of people — we do now,” said Mattice. “I would think that would be really helpful to the elected officials on that board.”
Erickson said the most important quality of all citizens that he has served with in his board tenure is their dedication to the program.
“All I can say is the only requirement to be on the housing board is to be a housing advocate and willing to spend the time,” said Erickson. “It’s not an easy job.”
Erickson said that his preference for a governance restructure would have been to create an independent housing authority with its own public revenue stream and an elected board, much like the school board or Aspen Valley Hospital.
In a work session on Tuesday, McNicholas Kury asked that something be done to honor the outgoing APCHA board before its last day at the end of July.
Interviews will be carried out beginning at 2:30 p.m. on July 9, and the hope is to select candidates on that date. All 10 elected officials will be present for the interview process.
“My only concern is if that is very intimidating for potential applicants [it might] deter them from applying,” said McNicholas Kury. “I hope not.”
The open application period has been noticed several times in both papers, but is not mentioned on either government’s website or social media channels. Staff in the APCHA office were not aware of the process or deadline for the board applications.
The ad in the paper boasts that APCHA is the “largest resort-based workforce housing program in North America with over 3,000 deed restricted units and an underlying real estate market value of over $3 billion.”
It describes the role of the board as establishing housing policy and creating a strategic plan for the key objectives of APCHA.
“Housing has been shown to be such a critical component of getting people to be a part of our community,” said Mattice. “It’s a really great opportunity for someone who is dedicated to the community to play an integral part in housing and how it’s managed.”