Anniston Housing Authority has new director, Willie “Sonny” McMahand
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Nov 20, 2012 | 4298 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Willie "Sonny" McMahand said he enjoyed working in public housing because it allowed him to make a contribution to the community by improving the quality of life for its residents. (Photo special to The Star)
Willie "Sonny" McMahand said he enjoyed working in public housing because it allowed him to make a contribution to the community by improving the quality of life for its residents. (Photo special to The Star)
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After more than a year of searching, the Anniston Housing Authority has a new executive director.

Willie “Sonny” McMahand, who has 34 years of experience working in public housing including stints in Greenville, S.C., plus Durham and Charlotte, N.C., is scheduled to begin heading Anniston’s Housing Authority Dec. 3. The authority has been without a director since June 2011.

McMahand, 56, served as second-in-command at the Durham authority until budget cuts forced his layoff in December 2011, according to The Herald-Sun newspaper.

David Dethrage, a member of the Anniston authority’s board of commissioners, said he is “very, very excited” about the hire.

“This guy is really, I think, going to come in and have an impact,” Dethrage said. “He understands the nature of delegating tasks while maintaining responsibility. That’s very important to me.”

McMahand has spent the last year taking care of his father, who recently died. He started looking for a new job just a short time ago, he said, and decided to make the move to Anniston in part to be closer to his family — McMahand is a native of Greenville, S.C. — and in part because he is ready for a challenge, he said. In his two trips to Anniston during the interview process, McMahand saw and understood some of the challenges facing the agency, he said.

“(My experience) will go a long way to stabilizing the Anniston Housing Authority,” McMahand said.

During McMahand’s tenure in Durham, the Housing Authority there had some issues, including being named a “troubled authority” by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2008. In 2009, its spending was restricted because HUD concluded during an audit that the authority had not followed federal rules for documentation and awarding of contracts, according to the Herald-Sun.

McMahand said the issues were resolved early in his time in Durham and that he had originally been hired to turn the Durham Authority around.

McMahand owned a consulting company from 2004 to 2006 that specialized in transforming the management of public and assisted housing. The company provided policy and procedures development and training, performance management and resident training, he wrote on his resume.

“When I left, the Durham authority was on the verge of becoming a high-performing authority,” McMahand said.

The Durham Housing Authority executive director was not available for comment about McMahand’s statement.

McMahand said he enjoyed working in public housing because it allowed him to make a contribution to the community by improving the quality of life for its residents. He said that during his time in Durham, he worked with police to create a neighborhood patrol of the public housing complexes. He will be analyzing Anniston’s program to see if it is run as efficiently as possible, McMahand said.

“We’ve got to make it uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, for individuals to come in and prey on our residents,” McMahand said. “The key is a partnership between the authority, the residents and the police department.”

Susan Ponder, a member of the Anniston authority’s board, said McMahand was a perfect fit for the Authority. She noted the Housing Authority’s difficulties over the past few years including being placed on the troubled authorities list, and said she hoped that McMahand will bring fresh perspective and ideas.

“I want to see him take us in the direction to make us not just average, but make us an outstanding authority,” Ponder said.

Dethrage said the decision to hire McMahand was unanimous. Attempts Tuesday to reach the other commissioners were unsucessful.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
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