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New JCHA director shares ideas for future

Nick Shepherd • Jul 20, 2012 at 9:31 PM

The new executive director of the Johnson City Housing Authority received a warm reception on Friday. Dozens of officials, family members and politicians gathered at the Keystone recreation center to congratulate Richard McClain on his new job.

McClain served as interim director after Ed Zimbicki retired in February. He was officially appointed to the position in June of this year after a four-month nationwide search.

“I’ve been here since 2009, and I’ve had increasing responsibilities,” McClain said. “I feel like I’ve had some time to learn the housing authority. I feel like I have a lot to learn still, but I feel like I’ve had some time to be prepared.”

McClain has long-term goals for the JCHA. Some of those goals include improving safety and providing more services. He would also like to expand the JCHA to offer more housing.

Improving safety and security is key, he said. He plans to put in a video survelliance system. McClain also plans to partner with local police and offer the video to police if a crime is committed in the JCHA. “The video will help provide safety and security,” he said. “We are going to continue to try and make that better.”

Another goal for McClain is to expand the housing options offered by JCHA. He said the JCHA has not expanded the housing options since 1982. The results of not expanding has caused waiting lists for public housing to increase. McClain said there are currently hundreds of people waiting for housing to open up. There are also plans to remodel the public housing units.

Some of the expansion has already started to happen. “We’re starting to do exciting new things,” McClain said. “We’ve already added two new lots, and have plans to build six more units.”

The main focus for the expansion would be the Jonesborough and Gray areas. He would like to work with the city and the county to offer services in those areas.

One issue that McClain will have to deal with will be the increase in rates in the public housing system. Rates will rise on Aug. 1 to either 2.3 to 3.9 times the current rate or to 30 percent adjustable income rent. If tenants choose the latter option, they will pay 30 percent of their earnings after taxes for rent. The rent will still include utilities.

McClain also wants to work with the city organizations to build better partnerships. Some members of the city commission have already noticed his dedication.

“I haven’t known him for that long,” said Assistant City Manager Charles Stahl. “But in the dealings we’ve had with him, he is very much in communication with the city.”

McClain has already started to use that open line of communication by requesting for the Legion Center for certain events. Stahl is happy that McClain is the new director and said he is “very serious about serving the community and its residents.”

Stahl also admired McClain’s hard work in his short time in the director’s chair. He is not the only one who admires McClain’s hard work. “I think Richard has shown he is progressive and hardworking,” said State Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough. “His work ethic is second to none. Everything that comes out of his office is positive. He’s so easy to talk to and a down-to-earth guy.”

The JCHA helps provide opportunities for affordable housing and socioeconomic advancements in a discrimination-free environment for eligible low income families. The organization is one of the largest public housing authorities in the state.

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