Palatka Housing Authority board selects new leader

Former Daytona Beach Housing Authority president to replace longtime Palatka fixture John Nelson

The Palatka Housing Authority voted to enter negotiations with former Daytona Beach Housing Authority President Anthony Woods to lead Palatka’s affordable housing organization, though some board members expressed reservations. 

Woods and Seminole Housing Authority Deputy Director LaShanda Lovette were interviewed for a second time Monday. Board members and housing authority staff quizzed candidates on how they would maintain the housing authority, their experience with affordable housing and expectations in Palatka if they would replace outgoing executive director John Nelson, who officially retired July 5.

Woods, 50, is from DeBary. He spent six years as Daytona Beach Housing Authority President/CEO after stints with the Houston Housing Authority, San Antonio Housing Authority and the Southern Mississippi Housing Authority, spanning back to 1994. 

Lovette has worked for housing authorities for 13 years, with six years as a deputy director.

Board members said they favored Woods because his experience would help in conflicts with the city and county. Christine Bolden is a Palatka Housing Authority resident and board member. She said she felt Woods was the best candidate for the position.

“From the experience and knowledge standpoint, Woods would be a better candidate,” Bolden said. “It’s mainly about your community and your tenants, and how you deal with the residents.” 

In March, Daytona Beach Housing Authority board members voted to buy out Woods’ contract. Palatka Housing Authority board members asked Woods to provide more details.

Woods cited the replacement of four board members and a resident commissioner seat left vacant by the Daytona Beach Mayor as a reason for his removal. He called the termination “politically motivated,” and did not specify a particular action that caused the termination.

“I would liken it to irreconcilable differences in a marriage or something to the effect of the goals and aspirations of the board differed from my own,” Woods said. “There is a lot of innuendo and a lot of rhetoric that pertains to the how, who and when. At the end of the day, I have always been a builder of relationships.” 

Board member Will Jones said he felt Woods was elusive in questioning about his departure from Daytona Beach Housing Authority. He said the interview process should have included more candidates, and with a longer search, the Palatka Housing Authority may have found a better match.

“I don’t really feel comfortable with either one of these candidates. I feel like we should have opened it up back to the public again because we did not have the number that we asked for to interview,” Jones said. “We only interviewed three candidates. That was two of them.”

Board member Daryll Futch said he harbored concerns about Woods, but he felt Woods’ explanation cleared up some issues.

“Woods is definitely qualified, and I feel better about what happened in Daytona than I did before,” Futch said. “In the end, we have somebody experienced like Woods that’s more than likely to do a good job here.”

Nelson said the executive director position received 23 applicants, and six were selected for interviews. He said the board had no control over a few candidates who withdrew their names from consideration.

“For their own reasons, a couple of (candidates) dropped out,” Nelson said.

Nelson defended Woods and said the manner Daytona Beach Housing Authority decided to remove Woods did not suggest Woods acted improperly.

“If they had reason to terminate him, they would not have paid him to leave. Period,” Nelson said. “They have to say, ‘You violated A, B, C, D, E and F. You’re out of here.’ He was terminated for convenience.”  

The salary of the position is between $80,000-$110,000. Palatka Housing Authority Board Chairman Gilbert Evans said he hoped the position would be filled by early August.