Housing Authority Head Impresses on Meet-and-Greet Tour
Islah Abdul Aziz has seen housing officials come and go, but few can compare with the one that toured The Palms of Deerfield Beach in May.
Nadine Jarmon, the new executive director of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority, entered the community kitchen at The Palms. She greeted Aziz and the others and when she spotted some dirt on the bottom of a swinging door, she grabbed a sponge, knelt and scrubbed at the spot until it was clean.
That, Aziz said, is the litmus test of a leader.
“I was a supervisor once and I always said, if you don’t do it first, don’t be expecting anybody else to do it,” she explained. “People will follow you when they see you doing it. I seen her doing it -- and I don’t mind following her.”
Less than a month into her job as the most recent head of Deerfield Beach’s embattled housing agency, Jarmon already is winning a following. Keith Emery, the housing authority’s chairman, cited her role as the head of the New Orleans housing authority in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and in Gary, Indiana, where the economic downturn has taken the stuffing out of the steel industry and the city.
“She’s very well known and established throughout HUD,” he said.
Aziz puts it more simply. “I like her,” she said.
Since she was named to the post in May, Jarmon has devoted herself to getting the authority back in working order. The near-simultaneous resignation of all the top brass tested Jarmon’s mettle in the first 30 days. Pam Davis resigned from the executive director position to take a job in Gainesville. Her second in command, Ranaldo Bennett, followed her to Gainesville, and Ruchelle Hobbs, the interim executive director has been out on indefinite medical leave.
“I said, `You have got to give me smoke and mirrors.You didn’t tell me everybody had left,’” Jarmon recalls telling Emery. Today, she concedes it was hard to know how to begin, but she hasn’t panicked.
“I think I’ve got my arms around it,” she said. “There had been so many deferred decisions that it had literally shut down. When I got here, it was a matter of paying bills, getting signatures changed, getting into the electronic system that HUD has so I could process payments.Now I’m getting to know the staff and getting to view the properties.”
Jarmon sees the glass just as it is. On the half full side, she’s with a housing authority that is strong in it’s fundamentals.
“This is the first time that I’ve come to a housing authority that is a high performer and I welcome the change,” she said of the HUD designation defining the physical condition of the property, its management and it’s financial stability. “Ms. Davis had done a pretty good job over the years making sure all three indicators were high.”
As for the half empty side, the reason Pam Davis left for a position in Gainesville? Jarmon makes only a veiled reference to the controversy – tempered with her own unique perspective.
“I thought, `That is it? You’ve got a blogger?” she said. “I can handle it. It isn’t Katrina."