The La Joya Housing Authority board appointed an interim executive director earlier this week after initially being unable to decide on a candidate last week to replace their previous executive director, who abruptly resigned earlier this month.
The board of commissioners appointed Claudia M. Alcazar of Rio Grande City as the interim executive director during a meeting Monday.
By Thursday afternoon, Alcazar had accepted the position and was already at work at the housing authority.
During a meeting last week, the board members were unable to agree on who to appoint as their interim executive director with none of the three candidates suggested garnering enough support from the board.
Aside from Alcazar, the candidates interviewed included Juan Cedillo, the former Sullivan City manager, Amanda Valdez, currently the housing authority’s program manager, and Elizabeth Hernandez who at one point served as the interim executive director for the Donna Housing Authority.
At that meeting last week, Board Commissioner Jose Armando Salinas had made a motion to hire Alcazar but, at that time, the move was not supported by any of the other commissioners.
Salinas said he wanted to hire Alcazar because of her experience working with different government agencies.
“When we interviewed her, she showed that she really wanted to work with us and she really wanted to get us out of this mess we’re in,” Salinas said at the time. “She showed that she really wanted to help us out.”
The board was prompted to search for a new director by the resignation of Executive Director Cristi LaJeunesse who was hired in November 2018.
Although LaJeunesse didn’t officially take the position until November, she had worked as a consultant for the housing authority since January 2017.
When she was hired to run the La Joya authority, it was known that she wouldn’t be in La Joya full time because she also serves as the executive director for the Kenedy Housing Authority, which in turn manages five other authorities: the Smiley, Three Rivers, Nixon, Falls City and Hallettsville housing authorities.
Her responsibility to these housing authorities meant she would likely only be in La Joya about five days out of the month.
However, when new board commissioners were appointed, creating a new majority on the board, LaJeunesse’s availability became a problem.
Before LaJeunesse submitted her resignation, the commissioners expressed their frustrations over her absence from the housing authority. Current commissioners who had voted to hire her in November — German Reyna and Sylvia Garces Valdez — also agreed that they needed someone who could be more accessible.
Reyna and Garces Valdez did not attend Monday’s meeting when the board voted to appoint Alcazar; however, Garces Valdez said she prayed the board members picked the best person for the job.
“I personally would have chosen Elizabeth Hernandez with her 18 years of experience working with housing authorities,” Garces Valdez stated on Tuesday.
During the board meeting last week when they were unable to reach a consensus, Garces Valdez had made a failed motion to hire Hernandez but only received support from Commissioner Jorge Bazan.
Despite Alcazar not being her first choice, Garces Valdez said the board would focus on bringing the housing authority out of trouble.
“I will continue to work hard for my community and the LJHA,” she said. “My interest is always the LJHA, tenants and our children. God help us continue to make progress at LJHA.”