Leadership at the Lake County Housing Authority changed Thursday with the departure of longtime Executive Director/CEO David Northern Sr.
Northern had served since 2002 as head of the quasi-governmental agency that handles public housing for much of Lake County. He had made it known in January he would be leaving for an out-of-state opportunity.
Geneen Smith-Underwood, who had served as deputy director, was named Thursday to the top post by the agency's governing board. The agency headquartered near Grayslake serves about 3,500 families.
"I've decided to move my career on to a different place," he said. "It's been in the works and we made it official today." Northern said his last day included signing a $32,000 check -- the highest in his tenure -- to a participant in the Family Self-Sufficiency program. The participant contributed the money over five years and it was kept in escrow by the LCHA to allow that person to buy their own home.
"We will always have the have and have nots. I think we've made good inroads to having people be self-sufficient," he said. That includes a housing counseling program that attempts to intercept people before they lose their homes, he added.
Housing Authority Board Chairman R. Delacy Peters said Northern was known for introducing innovative programs, and described him as an energetic "special character" who influenced the lives of those around him.
Northern cited the pending redevelopment of the Marion Jones Public Housing Project in North Chicago and a $4 million grant for energy efficiency projects as recent achievements. He also launched the Affordable Housing Acquisition Program, which rehabs foreclosed or abandoned homes as rent-to-own for LCHA clients.
This past January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rated the authority's choice voucher program as a high performer in 2012, the fourth consecutive year.
The authority and Northern have received several awards and recognitions. During his tenure, Northern was selected by a national housing group from among 20,000 members to join a delegation visiting South Africa to observe public housing programs.
But not all was smooth sailing. Last June, the housing authority board settled a federal job discrimination lawsuit filed against the authority and Northern by a Gurnee-area woman.