Southern Nevada housing board chairwoman says farewell

Chairperson Dora LaGrande speaks during a Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board meeting, 340 N. 11th Street, in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco
Chairperson Dora LaGrande speaks during a Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board meeting, 340 N. 11th Street, in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco

An SEIU union member holds a sign in protest of contract negotiations with the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority at the authority’s board meeting, 340 N. 11th Street, in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco

Commissioner Cedric Crear during a Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board meeting, 340 N. 11th Street, in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco
Commissioner Scott Black, center, speaks during a Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board meeting, 340 N. 11th Street, in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco

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Dora LaGrande ended her tenure as chairwoman of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority with a farewell address Thursday that both underscored the agency’s mission and criticized some within the ranks.

“(Affordable housing) is more than shelter,” she said. “It provides stability, security and dignity. It plays a key role in reducing homelessness, poverty and building strong communities.”

LaGrande, 64, was the housing authority’s longest-serving board member. She joined at the authority’s inception in January 2010, when the three area housing authorities merged.

The longtime commissioner’s departure marks the beginning of a new era for the housing authority. When Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly takes LaGrande’s place next month, five of the board’s nine appointed members will have joined since July 2017. Executive Director Chad Williams joined the agency in June.

LaGrande pointed out that all of the newcomers to the board — a mixture of elected officials and subsidized housing residents — come without institutional knowledge.

“If you aren’t an informed, engaged commissioner you will never be an effective commissioner,” she said. “You will just be someone showing up for a couple of meetings.”

LaGrande had kind words for the housing authority’s residents, saying that serving them was “one of the greatest honors of my life.” She reminded the residents to both adhere to their lease rules and speak out if they are mistreated.

“I personally believe that as residents of this agency you deserve far better than what you’ve received,” she said.

LaGrande also was critical of the housing authority’s staff, saying some employees are compassionate but others have become cynical and appear to be most interested in collecting their paycheck.

“If that is indeed your attitude, it may be time for you to look for employment elsewhere,”she said.

That comment provoked a soft chorus of boos from some rank-and-file employees who attended the meeting to protest stalled union contract negotiations.

Service Employees International Union Local 1107’s chief steward at the housing authority, Byron Peterson, said after the meeting that employees had good reason to be upset with LaGrande’s comment.

“Being ignored, asked to give up benefits promised, being verbally and physically abused by people we serve and to let that behavior continue over time. Yes, people become cynical but not for the mission we serve, but the leadership we’ve had to endure,” he said. “We have new leadership at SNRHA and with that we are hopeful.”

Despite her criticisms, LaGrande said the housing authority is poised to succeed.

“I believe you will rise to the occasion, and I look forward to great things from this agency,” she told the room.

Williams and the board members thanked LaGrande for her years of commitment to providing housing to low-income Nevadans.

“She will be dearly missed at the housing authority,” Williams said. “She’s a good mentor and a person that the housing authority should continue to look toward for institutional knowledge so that we can advance and become a top performer.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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