After more than a year of functioning without a permanent housing director, on December 17th, the Town of Jonesboro Housing Authority selected Everette L. Johnson to become the new Housing Authority executive director. This selection came on the heels of ousted director Jeanette Glover who was terminated because of a lack of confidence voiced by residents, staff, and members of the Board of Commissioners. Following the termination and departure of Glover, Johnson was appointed interim director until a new director could be named. Johnson is a native of Jackson Parish who attended Grambling State University majoring in Chemistry.
There were two other local candidates vying to fill the position, one of which was Yolanda Barnes, a Grambling State University employee who is currently employed in the Office of Facilities at the University. Barnes graduated from Grambling State University with a BA and Master’s Degree in Sociology. Courtne’ Davis was also a top contender for the position. Davis currently manages a public housing complex and holds both a BA in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Grambling State University.
Ms. Janice Simmons, Board of Commissioners’ Chairperson for the Jonesboro Housing Authority had this to say when asked about the task involved and the process of selecting the new director, she said “It was a challenging decision, especially given the fact that there were three outstanding, well qualified candidates from which to choose. In the end the Board of Commissioners chose Johnson because using the point system to evaluate candidates, Johnson emerged with the highest point value.
Mayor Leslie Thompson commented he is pleased that the Jonesboro Housing Authority has reached a point of stabilization. He indicated that the Authority has been a critical focal point of his administration since being elected in 2018, saying, “Affordable housing is a key component that fuels a municipality’s economic development efforts. Not only were we determined to assist in the creation of an environment driven by compliance of law, but also an environment of respect for tenants and staff. I believe that the Board of Commissioners made a good choice in the selection of Mr. Everette Johnson as Director of the Authority and I believe he will set a tone of excellence and a standard for the rest of the state to follow” said Thompson.
The Jonesboro Housing Authority has been in a state of flux and has been mired in controversy for several years primarily because of poor management, questionable business dealings and unethical practices. Equally concerning were winds of claims regarding Glover’s professional qualifications and skills. Questions were also raised concerning how and to whom service contracts were awarded during her years in office. Specially, several questions were raised about contracts being awarded for major work being conducted under Glover’s leadership as all major contracts were awarded to one contractor with familial connections without evidence of meeting necessary state bid laws.
More questions surfaced about the process and the manner in which Glover was appointed under the Bradford Administration and how Bradford insisted and fought vehemently to keep Glover in the position long after he suffered a decisive defeat in the 2018 election for town Mayor against now Mayor Leslie Thompson. In an effort to hold on to the position Glover was encouraged and monies were raised through a local church where Glover attended to file a frivolous lawsuit that sought to remove Simmons, a Thompson appointee, from the Board of Commissioners and to have Glover reinstated to the position. Glover was fired by majority vote of the Board of Commissioners. Glover’s lawsuit went nowhere and the battle to remove Janice Simmons from the Board of Commissioners ended in a failed attempt. The effort to have Glover reinstated to the position of Executive Director and the retention of an illegally appointed Board of Commissioners by the Bradford administration also ended with the Second Judicial Court issuing a ruling confirming Mayor Thompson’s legal right to appoint a new Board of Commissioners. As a last-ditch maneuver, all of Bradford’s appointees desperately pleaded to remain on the Board of Commissioner until a new Executive Director was named, a clandestine plan that might have allowed them to reinstate Glover as Executive Director. Suspiciously, their plea was ignored, and all members were decommissioned by court order and removed from the Board of Commissioners.
In an interview with the new Director Everette Johnson, he talked about the direction in which Jonesboro Housing Authority is heading under his leadership. Johnson stated that his top priority is being directed toward residents and staff concerns regarding safety of residents especially as related to COVID 19 and renovating units. Many of the Jonesboro Housing Authority plans have been suspended because of the COVID 19 virus he said. Johnson indicated that he and staff are exploring innovative ways to offer tenants educational training, specialized training that will enable them to improve the quality of life. The agency will also be advocating home ownership and operating from a five-year strategic plan to enhance and/or greatly improve public housing in Jonesboro, said Johnson.
The appointment of a new Executive Director will hopefully put the authority on track for growth and development which will be in the best interest of tenants. Contracts for work should be properly bided and ethical practices will return to the operation of the Jonesboro Housing Authority. Working collaboratively, let’s make the Town of Jonesboro Housing Authority one to be envied by others throughout Northeast Louisiana. The citizens of the Town of Jonesboro deserve nothing less. Congratulations on your appointment Everette.
Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr. is an associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Grambling State University, former President, Grambling State University Faculty Senate and former Chair, Department of Consumer Education and Resource Management, Howard University, Washington, D.C.