After 17 years as lauded CEO, AHA’s Renee Glover is leaving because of pressure from city

By Maria Saporta

Renee Lewis Glover, the nationally-acclaimed CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, is negotiating her departure from the organization after 17 years at its helm.

A statement from AHA stated that “the new board members appointed by Mayor Kasim Reed have made it clear that they would like to have change in leadership at the AHA, which is fully within the prerogative of the mayor and the board.”

Glover and members of the board have been working “cooperatively” to come up with a “mutually acceptable terms of separation and an orderly transition,” the statement continued.

Renee Glover

Ever since Reed was elected mayor, there has been an estrangement with AHA. The mayor never found time in his schedule to meet one-on-one with Glover. Also, he began appointing board members who regularly challenged Glover’s leadership and her policies in running the organization.

Reed, who was elected mayor in November 2009, was not pleased that the AHA board approved a five-year contract with Glover in June, 2010. Reed has said he does not believe in city employees having contracts. Officially, the AHA is an independent entity with a separate board, but the mayor appoints a majority of the board members.

Glover’s record of success as CEO of AHA has been heralded by federal officials for decades. When she took over as interim CEO (after serving on its board), AHA was close to default and had been mired with a rotating door of executives and mismanagement.

In her role as CEO, Glover championed the idea of tearing down traditional public housing projects and replacing them with mixed-income communities. The theory was that a concentration of poor people in a community made it nearly impossible for people to break out of the cycle of poverty.

AHA ended up demolishing the first public housing project in America — Techwood Homes — and replacing it with the mixed-income community of Centennial Place — built just before Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Glover’s policies invited controversy with many housing advocates questioning if AHA was really just displacing the poor. But Glover won the public debate, and Atlanta became a national model — in fact it was referred to as “the Atlanta model” for the development of mixed-income communities in major cities across the country.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs developed the Hope VI program to implement the mixed-income communities in place of the traditional public housing neighborhoods.

The authority’s statement went on to say that “AHA has enjoyed tremendous success under Glover’s leadership and she feels privileged to have had the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its citizens.”

In the early 1990s, the City of Atlanta had the highest per-capita percentage of residents living in public housing when compared to other major U.S. cities. About 50,000 people lived in about 14,000 units spread across more than 40 housing projects.

A third of the housing units were uninhabitable, and the projects had some of the highest crime rates of anywhere in the city.

According to AHA, the housing authority is serving 6,000 more families today than it did in 1994. The number of families receiving housing vouchers has increased by nearly 400 percent.

Before joining AHA in 1994, Glover was a corporate finance attorney in Atlanta and New York. She has received numerous awards, both locally and nationally, and she was named “Public official of the Year” by Governing magazine in 2002. She serves on the board of the Federal Bank of Atlanta and on the board of Habitat for Humanity International.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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