Housing Authority director resigns post
Mary Roberts, executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, submitted her resignation to the housing board Wednesday while it met briefly behind closed doors.She announced her decision to Housing Authority personnel at their weekly staff meeting Thursday morning. Her resignation is effective March 1.Rumors that Roberts intended to step down have circulated for several months. Her post, and the role of the Housing Authority in general, has been the subject of several discussions between the housing board, Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners.A two-page press release regarding her resignation was released by City Hall Thursday afternoon, but it offers no explanation for Roberts’ decision. She reportedly left for a hut trip Thursday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.The housing board is expected to appoint an interim director of the housing office in the coming days.Roberts was hired as assistant housing director in 1998 and was promoted a year later to executive director, succeeding Dave Tolen.The housing board, along with the city and county managers, selected Roberts for the post, but since that time, the makeup of the housing board has changed considerably. The board includes both city and county appointees.”It has changed directions,” said Ed Sadler, assistant city manager. “There are different expectations, different demands, different attitudes.”With the changing membership on the board has come a push by its members to take a more hands-on role in the operations of the Housing Authority. Longtime board member George Burson resigned last fall, citing a philosophical difference with the new board, which he said was bent on “micromanaging” affordable housing.The relationship between the board and the housing office staff has appeared strained at times as staffers became accustomed to the new board’s expectations.”It was a struggle,” said Victoria Giannola, assistant director of the housing office. “It has taken us awhile to understand what they’re looking for.”Giannola said she was surprised by Roberts’ announcement yesterday. Roberts indicated she would take some time off but “didn’t really say why” she had decided to step down, Giannola said.The press release indicates Roberts, a Basalt resident, intends to spend more time with her family and work as a consultant.Just last month, the chain of command above the Housing Authority was the subject of a lengthy debate by the housing board and elected officials.The housing director had been trying to answer to the housing board, City Council, county commissioners and the city and county managers.”The director and staff are going crazy trying to serve too many masters,” said City Councilman Tom McCabe at the time.The elected officials decided the housing board, rather than the city manager, should oversee the housing director.The duties of the director, however, may be redefined by the time Roberts’ successor is selected, Sadler said.Private consultants have developed a housing master plan for the city that is due out shortly. It is expected to prioritize future housing projects and make recommendations for their development. And the City Council has indicated it would like a private developer to handle those projects, according to Sadler.”The housing board is going to take its time to replace her and be sure of the direction we’re going, and make sure the director understands that direction,” said City Councilman Tim Semrau, chairman of the housing board.The housing director currently earns an annual salary of $83,761.Roberts’ tenure at the Housing Authority helm saw completion of both the Snyder Park and Seventh & Main housing projects, as well as the start of work on expanding Truscott Place. She has also overseen the redevelopment of the Aspen Country Inn as housing, the acquisition of the Marthinsson-Nostdahl apartments and planning for several other efforts to provide additional worker housing.”I feel like a lot has been accomplished over the past three years and am very proud of the work the staff has done to keep so many new projects as well as the day-to-day activities of the organization successful,” Roberts said in the press release.”I know that she totally enjoyed what she was doing,” said Cindy Christensen, housing office manager. “I hope she feels she accomplished something, because I think she did.”The housing director’s job can be stressful, given the expectations of the community, the housing board and two different governments, Christensen added.”Our housing program is so important – you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing. It’s not an easy job,” she said
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