Fayetteville Housing Authority chair resigns, new members needed

Willow Heights is one of three public housing complexes owned by the Fayetteville Housing Authority / Google Maps

The Fayetteville Housing Authority needs two new board members, including a chairman.

Mike Emery, who chaired the volunteer board for two years, resigned on Tuesday.

In a letter to the city, he said the job became too stressful.

“Issues of late have shown to me a side of things locally that I care not to ever see again,” he said. “When you manage to get on the unpopular side of a group, person, or issue, you can expect some resistance. However, the torment that I have witnessed the executive director and staff of the FHA endure, along with myself being a target over the course of two years is nothing short of vicious.”

Emery was referring to a group of residents who are opposed to the board’s decision to sell one of the aging public housing properties the FHA owns and move its residents to another complex it manages.

The board last year voted to sell Willow Heights to a private developer and move its occupants to an expanded Morgan Manor. Some residents have said they would rather see improvements at Willow Heights instead of adding more low-income residents to the Morgan Manor area.

Melissa Terry, one of the leading opponents of the plan, was appointed to the board by City Council members last fall. At the time, council member Matthew Petty said he hoped Terry’s appointment would alleviate some of the outside criticism of the board.

In his letter to the city, Emery said things did not get better. He said he’s become a victim of verbal attacks in person and electronic harassment through social media, text message, email and cell phone.

“Add to that the fear that goes along with having all your personal contact information, including home address, spread around by groups and individuals seeking to pressure and intimidate,” Emery said. “All of this has been relentless.”

Mayor Lioneld Jordan called a special City Council meeting on July 24 to discuss the board’s five-year plan. Jordan said the goal was to allow residents to express their opinions about the FHA in a more official atmosphere.

After nearly four hours of discussion and debate, the council made six recommendations to the FHA board that included a warning to abandon the plan to sell Willow Heights.

Near the end of the meeting, Petty said he thought the contract to sell Willow Heights should be voided and if the current board won’t abandon the contract then maybe it should be replaced with board members who will abandon it.

Board member Chris White resigned the following day.

“The issues facing our public housing are so serious, they deserve to be addressed by someone with experience in housing matters and the ability to focus all their efforts towards impacting the issues at hand in a positive manner,” White wrote in an email to the board. “The residents of the FHA deserve the best, nothing less.”

Emery, who also resigned from the Environmental Action Committee, said he will now focus his charitable efforts elsewhere.

“I just ask one thing from the city administration, that being for someone to step in and prevent the harassment and unprofessional treatment being extended to the executive director and staff of the Fayetteville Housing Authority from multiple sources,” he said. “They are hard-working individuals trying with all their might to do what is right for the low-income residents of Fayetteville and Washington County. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in their day-to-day duties.”

The City Clerk’s office will accept applications for the two vacancies through 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.

Anyone interested in volunteering for a position should fill out the city’s Board, Committee, and Commission application. Completed forms can be emailed to the clerk’s office or delivered in person to City Hall at 113 W. Mountain Street.