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updated: 4/9/2018 6:17 PM

Search on for next Lake County Housing Authority leader

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  • Aaron Lawlor

    Aaron Lawlor


The ongoing search for a new chief at the Lake County Housing Authority is expected to be followed closely by those who contend the Grayslake-based agency at times has been less than transparent.

A job description for the position of executive director was posted online Monday after an April 5 special meeting of the agency's board where various aspects of the marketing strategy and recruitment process were discussed.

Applicants have until May 15 to apply for the job held for 15 years over two stints by David A. Northern Sr. In February, he was appointed director of the Housing Authority of Champaign County, and his last day in Lake County was March 31.

Northern was a sometimes controversial leader who backed a contentious proposal to move homeless people with mental illness into a vacant housing authority building near Lake Zurich. The plan last fall was upheld by an appellate court.

In 2013, Northern took a high-ranking job with the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Deputy Director Jeneen Smith-Underwood was appointed to replace him, but she lasted only four months and Northern returned.

A $122,000 separation agreement with Smith after her short stint as chief of the agency caught the attention of Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, who appoints housing commissioners.

"I felt they weren't being accountable to the taxpayers and the public," he said. Lawlor has replaced four of the five commissioners and will clean the slate with the expiration of Sylvia Valadez's term.

"It's not personal to her," Lawlor said. "My commitment was to turn over 100 percent of the board."

In late February, Lawlor informed the county board of Northern's second departure and called for a "collaborative and thorough" selection process for a replacement. He said it is "critically important" the selection and contract negotiation conform to county standards for conduct and ethics.

Lawlor said he asked the housing authority board to undertake "a comprehensive, professional, transparent and public search process" to select the next director.

"The housing authority has one chance to get this right," he said Monday. "It's a very important hire in a transitional moment for the housing authority," he added.

The housing authority was formed in 1946. It supports housing for more than 8,000 people and is the fourth largest housing authority in Illinois.

It owns about 495 public housing units, including seven senior buildings and 161 scattered site houses or duplexes throughout the county. It has a staff of 55 and a budget of about $32 million.

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