New board members sworn in for recently discovered Kyle housing agency

For the first time in possibly decades, Kyle officials Tuesday swore in new commissioners for the Kyle Housing Authority — an agency that the mayor and other top city officials only just learned about earlier this month after receiving a scathing report from the federal government.

The authority, which receives federal funding to manage two apartment complexes offering subsidized rent, is independent of the city, but the mayor is supposed to appoint a board of commissioners to oversee it.

It had apparently been operating without any mayoral appointees for an unknown period of time — possibly since the agency’s inception in 1977, the American-Statesman reported Monday.

Days after the letter was sent, the housing authority’s executive director Vickie Simpson notified the mayor in writing of her “retirement/resignation” as of Dec. 31.

At its first city-supported meeting Tuesday night held at Kyle City Hall, four of the five appointees were sworn in: Michelle Lopez, a former Kyle City Council member; Daniel Harper, deputy vice chancellor for finance at ‎Texas State University; Lisa Adams, community relations coordinator at Central Texas Medical Center; and Clara Rodriguez, a longtime Kyle resident. The fifth appointee, criminal defense attorney Veronica Sanders, was not present Tuesday.

“I just wanted to thank each of you for agreeing to serve,” said Kyle Mayor Todd Webster. “It means a lot to me personally … that you were all willing to step up and fulfull a role.”

During public comments, Kyle resident M.E. “Meli” Van Natta, a real estate broker who has experience with Section 8 voucher tenants, expressed interest in possibly serving as an interim executive director and offered to help the housing authority in any way possible.

“I feel that I have a lot that I can offer to this commission in terms of helping to get the housing authority restarted, re-energized, reorganized,” Van Natta said.

The board chose Harper as its chair, Lopez as its vice chair and Rodriguez as its secretary. It also accepted Simpson’s resignation.

Harper said after the meeting that his first priority is the residents, then figuring out the logistics of setting the agency straight.

“One of the things that we can’t lose sight of is that … there are people that live in these two units that have needs, and that has to be addressed first,” he said. “Where we really need to go is worry about the present day, then the future and then we can talk about the past.”

Lopez said she was shocked upon reading the letter and is looking forward to making positive change.

“I really don’t like knowing that that’s in our backyard and that nobody has known that this has been issue, and I really felt for the residents who have been there,” Lopez said. “I think it also brought to the light the magnitude of what we are embarking upon so we can really put this moving in the right direction.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development regional spokeswoman Patricia Campbell has said that the agency is too small to meet HUD’s threshold required to undergo an audit, so it will be up to the new board to decide whether to investigate its finances.

Both Harper and Lopez said one of their main priorities is to find a new executive director. It’s too soon to say whether they’ll pursue an audit, they said.

The board has not set a regular meeting time yet, but on Tuesday set the next three meeting dates for Dec. 8, 15 and 22 at 5:45 p.m.

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