HRA employees guiding future leadership choices

Published 5:25 pm Saturday, February 25, 2012

If the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Austin is going to hire a full-time director — which it has discussed in the past months — the decision may ultimately lie with the HRA employees.

The board recently administered a 16-item questionnaire to some of its employees, and it hopes to find out what those employees think about the current status of the HRA — if it is operating well or if it could do more in the future.a

“This is not an evaluation of the present HRA director, not at all,” Boughton said. “This is just saying, ‘do we need more effort in that position?’”

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He added, “That’s what we’re trying to figure out now because it has been running pretty darn smoothly. The question is, ‘Gee, if things are running great, do we make any changes?’”

While board members have mentioned that current Executive Director Jim Hurm, who serves part time, has done a good job, the board wants to know if HRA could expand its role in the city with a full-timer in his place. Hurm said if the HRA expands some of its programs or sees some staff retirements in the future, something may need to be done. That could mean a full-time director, which would command a larger salary, or it could also mean new positions within HRA. There is more than one option, Hurm said, and added nothing is imminent at this point.

“We don’t have to do it immediately, we’ll take it a step at a time,” Hurm said.

Boughton mentioned Austin has changed in the last 10 to 15 years, and a recently employed Housing Improvement Program, which Hurm developed, may expand and require more attention and leadership in the future. Board Chair Marv Repinski pointed out several months ago that Hurm wears many hats, as he is the city administrator and director of the Port Authority, as well. Board members haven’t mentioned any concern about Hurm’s competency as director, but they wonder if someone who could dedicate more time to the position would allow for some expanded programs within the city. Furthermore, Repinski mentioned that Hurm, who has held the executive director position for eight years, has never been evaluated. Repinski said yearly evaluations are standard practices at HRAs in some cities.

Board members hope to have a better sense of direction at upcoming meetings, when they have time to review the questionnaires. Though Austin’s HRA was created by the city council, the HRA board still holds the authority to choose its executive director.

“In the next 30 to 60 days, I think we’ll have a lot better handle on what we want to see happen, and that may be nothing,” Boughton said.

The next HRA meeting is 3:30 p.m. March 15 at the HRA office.