VHA director leaving after two years

Published 11:45 am Friday, August 19, 2011

After two years on the job, Vicksburg Housing Authority executive director Dannie Walker is resigning to take a similar job with the Ozark, Ala., Housing Authority.

Walker, 52, told the VHA board Tuesday during an executive session, and housing authority employees on Wednesday. He said Thursday his final day is Sept. 7.

“It’s closer to family,” he said of the new job. “I have a son, Christopher, who lives in Montgomery, and he’s the father of our only grandchild, so it puts us closer to our grandchild. I’ll miss the relationships I’ve developed in Vicksburg and the staff and employees with the housing authority.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Chairman Christopher Barnett Sr. said the board will begin searching immediately for a new director.

“We hope to begin arranging interviews in the next few weeks,” he said.

Barnett said Walker’s announcement was unexpected, “but we understand. He’s doing what’s best for his family.”

Walker was hired in July 2009, replacing Jim Stirgus Sr., who was fired by the board in the midst of a turbulent six-month period that followed the arrest of housing authority maintenance superintendent Charles Jones Jr. for possession of cocaine in December 2008.

VHA operations were under investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General, and the housing authority was placed in troubled status by HUD because it did not have enough reserve funds to operate for three months.

Also, Walker was working with a brand-new board.

“He helped us grow as a board,” said Barnett, who was one of the four new commissioners appointed several months before Walker took office. “He opened our eyes to a lot of things and moved us forward. He set the bar pretty high as to what we will expect from the next director and from the staff.”

Walker came to VHA from the Bessemer, Ala., Housing Authority, where he was general operations manager.

In his career, he said, he has been a “problem-solver.”

“That’s the one thing different in the job I’m going to,” Walker said. “It’s already rated as a high-performing agency by HUD. I happen to know the retiring executive director.”

He said one of his biggest accomplishments was overcoming the VHA’s troubled agency status within eight months of his arrival while also dealing with the inspector general’s probe.

“I’m most proud of the fact that we restructured and reorganized the agency, and have it at a point where it’s a much more efficiently run agency than it was in the past,” Walker said. “Now there is enough ($1.735 million in the reserve fund) to operate for 11 months. I think that’s a great accomplishment in a two-year period.”

The improvements at VHA were accomplished by “belt tightening and efficiencies,” he said.

“We didn’t lose any staff. We actually added three staff members in that two-year period,” Walker said.

The housing authority board “has been very supportive,” he said. “They’ve really given me the independence to do my job and supported me in that job. They were willing to adopt the policies that needed to be adopted to turn the agency around.”

Walker said he has offered to work with the board after he leaves.

“I will help them any way I can to make the transition smooth” he said, “and I’m actually going to lay the ground work for my replacement before I leave.”