La Joya Housing Authority unable to decide on new director

LA JOYA — Unable to reach a consensus, the board of commissioners for the La Joya Housing Authority on Wednesday delayed naming an interim executive director.

The commissioners interviewed four candidates during Wednesday’s board meeting, each candidate taking turns meeting with the board during executive session.

The first candidate was Claudia M. Alcazar who previously worked for Rio Grande City. She was followed by Juan Cedillo, the former Sullivan City manager.

The board then interviewed Amanda Valdez, currently the housing authority’s program manager, who said one of the commissioners asked her to apply shortly before the meeting.

The fourth candidate — interviewed over the phone — was Elizabeth Hernandez who at one point served as the interim executive director for the Donna Housing Authority.

However, when the board of commissioners returned from executive session, they were unable to get a majority to agree on any one candidate.

Commissioner Sylvia Garces-Valdez motioned to hire Hernandez, which was seconded by Commissioner Jorge Bazan. However, none of the other commissioners supported the motion.

After that motion was defeated, Commissioner Jose Armando Salinas motioned to hire Alcazar but it was not seconded by anyone else.

Then, Commissioner German Reyna made a motion to hire Cedillo which was supported by Board Chairman John Peña but was opposed by the other three commissioners.

Unable to agree, the board moved on, leaving the position vacant.

Commissioner Salinas said he was disappointed by the lack of progress.

“I wanted to get this thing rolling,” Salinas said. “We’re going to be stuck again and that’s what we didn’t want.”

The search for an executive director follows last week’s resignation of the housing authority’s previous director, Cristi LaJeunesse.

LaJeunesse was hired as the executive director in November 2018 though she had worked as a consultant for the housing authority since January 2017.

She serves as the executive director for Kenedy Housing Authority, which manages five other authorities: the Smiley, Three Rivers, Nixon, Falls City and Hallettsville housing authorities.

When she was hired to run the La Joya authority, she said she would work remotely from San Antonio but try to be in La Joya at least five days out of the month.

However, board commissioners who were appointed after LaJeunesse’s hiring did not seem happy with that arrangement.

In fact, before LaJeunesse submitted her resignation, the commissioners expressed their frustrations over her absence from the housing authority. The commissioners who had voted to hire her in November also agreed that they needed someone who could be more accessible.

The attorney for the housing authority, Mark Anthony Sanchez, said the board is working to schedule another meeting next week in hopes of filling the vacancy.