What are your most memorable moments at FHCO?
I remember my first HUD monitoring visit in 2013 when Nicole and I worked non-stop trying to organize all four enforcement grants with paper files all organized and tests all done differently by four different test coordinators. Every day we had a different count for how many tests were completed under each grant. Every day we found more incomplete paper work in the files for various tests. I had only been there about 6 months and I wasn’t even understanding the HUD language (“intakes”, “inquiries”…)
During the first year of my work here, I think I found out every day something else I was responsible for that needed to be done! I recall all the great advocacy our great enforcement team did over the years with my guidance and their hard work. I recall convincing a prominent attorney to take a case I felt strongly about–and he was very resistant in the beginning; it ended up settling for $325,000!
I remember my first litigation training with national fair housing guru John Relman and when we got to the room, it was too small for the 88 people who showed up for the training! It was a room for 45! We made do somehow because all FHCO staff pitched in, and it was one of the best trainings we have put on. People who attended the training still talk about it.
I also recall the fun competition we had at March Madness time.
What do you consider your major accomplishments at FHCO?
I think my major accomplishment was increasing the capacity and quality of our enforcement work. This I did with attention to detail and the tireless work of some great staff people such as Pegge McGuire, Diane Hess and Nicole Edner. I was meeting new people every day in the fair housing world, locally, statewide and nationally. I realized that despite having been a legal aid lawyer doing litigation in all kinds of housing work for over 30 years, including fair housing, that I had a lot to learn.
I think I also participated in hiring some of the best people ever for the Enforcement side of this program. Some of whom have moved onto new jobs.
However my greatest accomplishment was in 2018 when I finally got all staff members to fill out brackets for March Madness, both the men’s and the women’s.
What are your observations about the future of fair housing?
I think fair housing is going through a rough patch, and that will continue for a while, but ultimately fair housing will survive and increase.
What advice do you have for those in the fair housing movement today?
In the current climate, take the middle course. Don’t try for the moon. Keep chipping away.
What will you miss the most about leaving FHCO and the fair housing movement?
I will miss all the wonderful people that I have worked with here, especially the enforcement team: Nicole Edner, Lisa Bailey, Isidro Reyes and Yoni Kahn-Jochnowitz. Our Enforcement Team meetings are the best! We talked about all kinds of issues and people were not afraid to say what they really thought and why. I loved to get everyone’s perspective on issues. And many staff, past and present, were able to persuade me to their point of view. Don’t ever be afraid to challenge the boss! I have also learned so much from Diane and really appreciate her patience and wisdom over the last six years. I will definitely miss our chats. I will also miss the clients who we have been able to help and those we were not able to help even though we tried. I will miss talking to and working with some great people and great attorneys in private practice, government and legal aid who were always willing to discuss cases and give us ideas, or tell us we were dead wrong.
What are you looking forward to most in retirement?
Sleeping in. Cleaning out all the junk in my house. More travel. And then finding something else I want to devote my time to.
Any other thoughts you want to leave us all with?
Yes. FHCO staff, please put the strainer back in the sink after you rinse it out. Do not leave it to dry in the rack. It is supposed to be wet! Keep this place warmer for Eleanor; she is the only person remaining who felt the cold as I did. And most importantly GO IRISH!