Brynn Grimley writes:
How to fit the details of an eight-hour board work session into
an 18-inch article is, to say the least, a struggle.
Realistically it isn’t possible to get into the in-depth
conversations, the different discussions that evolve (or at times
devolve) into an end result. In the end, a reporter is left with
summarizing, often finding highlights of the session and using
those to describe the day.
And more often than not, after sitting through the daylong
session, you leave knowing your day — unlike everyone else in the
room — is far from over. Deadline looms and the need to get the
story written for the web and the next day’s paper is pressing.
The end result? Crunching eight hours of information into two
hours of writing.
That was my Tuesday. Uff-Da.
I attended the Housing Kitsap (formerly Kitsap County
Consolidated Housing Authority) all day retreat. (Retreat is such a
misnomer because it wasn’t like the board was getting manis and
pedis or massages, they were planning for the future).
It’s clear the day’s session — which at times felt more like a
group therapy session than anything else — was needed. The agency
had Professional Options provide consultation for the day.
President and CEO of the firm, Dona Keating, was the
Keating laid out an ambitious agenda with the purpose of the
day’s meeting stated at the top:
To strengthen board involvement and accountability; refine
mission, strategy and vision for KCCHA; identify and achieve
additional revenue stream; implement and/or improve operational
It’s no secret that the housing authority faced the possibility
of dissolution after it became clear it couldn’t pay loans tied to
the revitalization efforts of downtown Bremerton. It’s also no
secret that the agency got away from its mission for a while.
But what seems to be regularly overlooked by many of the
commentators on our stories about the authority is the work that
has gone on over the past year to keep the agency afloat. When
people criticize the agency, they may not always think about the
impact that has on the staff who have worked hard to return the
agency to its mission and who have found ways to save on
expenditures so that the clients remain a priority.
Regardless of where you stand on whether the county made the
right decision when it bailed out the agency with a loan to the
tune of $40.5 million, the staff, current administration and
housing board in place now are not the same people that lead the
agency astray of its mission.
Some say bankrupt the agency and start over. But what does that
mean for the people living in the agency’s public housing units?
Where do they go if the agency that distributes the federal HUD
subsidies goes away? This is what housing authority staff think
It’d be a lie to say staff doesn’t get discouraged by
disparaging comments left on kitsapsun.com stories.
As Jennifer Laslovich, director of asset management, explained
Tuseday during the session: she believes in the mission of housing
low-income families and making affordable housing available to
Kitsap area residents. And just like the rest of the staff that has
stayed with the authority, she chose to stay with the organization
through this difficult time to see the agency succeed.
After hearing from management that agency staff was fearful of
the housing authority board, the board determined a priority going
forward would be to create unity within the organization. That
includes unity between board members, unity between staff, and
unity between the board and staff. With that unity will also come
trust, which is currently lacking within the organization and among
Housing commissioners also talked about changing the makeup of
who sits on the board, however they didn’t get into specifics of
how it might change. They talked about the need to keep the housing
authority’s best interest at the forefront when making decisions,
and the need to be unified after those decisions are made — they
shouldn’t go back to their respective elected offices and do
something that could undermine the decision made by the housing
The last two hours of the retreat centered around the creation
of a strategic plan. Executive director Tony Caldwell told the
board he would like to see the plan be a hybrid between a
goals-based plan and an issues-based plan.
This means the board should ask themselves: five years down the
road, where do you as housing commissioners see the agency? They
should also identify the issues facing the authority over the next
one to three years and create an action plan for solving those
Cognizant of the need to stay on top of the agency’s finances,
the board determined financial viability should be the first
priority of the plan. The next priority needs to be strengthening
the agency’s core mission.
The board wasn’t equipped to get into the nitty-gritty details
of what that plan would look like beyond setting the priorities,
but Keating was adamant that they get the foundation in place now.
The plan should be viewed as a working document that is formed with
the addition of staff recommendations and board vetting in the
The board meets again Sept. 7, and it will be interesting to see
the dynamics following Tuesday’s meeting.