Chester Spirit: CHA extends leader’s contract

CHA extends leader’s contract
By Staff Report, The Chester Spirit
January 25, 2017
Original Article

The Chester Housing Authority (CHA) Board of Commissioners will keep Executive Director Steven A. Fischer around until at least 2021. Fischer’s contract that the board has extended had been sent to expire in March 2017.

“Steve is doing a great job,” said CHA Board Chair Sheila Church. “His record shows that he has truly rebranded the housing authority since he arrived. He guided us out of court receivership, he takes care of our residents and we feel lucky to have him. We wanted to make that statement by extending his contract and saying we want him here for at least five more years.”

One of the hallmarks of Fischer’s tenure has been the implementation of a community vision that complements the housing. He has raised private funds to pay for health and wellness programs including exercise classes. He initiated a summer hot meals program, added computer classes to I and now has transformed that into an after school program so that kids have year-round access to computer labs and a snack. None of these programs previously existed but are now a mainstay for CHA residents.

Additionally, the Ruth L. Bennett Community Farm, now in its ninth year, has grown and spans several acres, serving as an education center for budding urban farmers and raising awareness of healthy eating.

Fisher, at CHA since 2005, quickly implemented tight controls on how the agency’s money is spent to curb the waste that had existed and managed to increase services while reducing the size of the staff by 50 percent. Once the receivership ended, he struck deals with the Chester Charter School for the Arts and Dollar General to bring development that will change the face of Highland Ave, and net CHA over $2.5 million.

“The bottom line for a housing authority, or any business for that matter, is finances. We have professionalized our operations,” Fisher said. “We are the custodians of taxpayer money and we take that very seriously. We also had to make our mission about more than bricks and mortar; we had to make it about the people who live in the homes. I am honored to serve and most appreciative the board has taken this action. It is a strong endorsement of not just of me, but our entire staff, whose dedication and hard work we count on.”

Under Fisher’s model, the agency also provides security and maintenance services to other Chester entities to raise additional revenue. CHA, which has been rated a high performer for the past nine years by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, has made great strides in security and in fighting crime, particularly at public housing sites over the last two years. The agency has also been recognized for low insurance payouts as a result of managing safe properties.

Fischer has also led a loyal, capable executive team. His general counsel, housing, finance and security directors have all remained with him throughout his tenure.

“It’s not just a job for him; it’s his life,” said Commisioner Tonya Warren. “As a leader, Steve brings a steadiness that provides a good setting for people to do well and get their jobs done with the right amount of support behind them. That’s how we keep the top talent we’ve been able to attract under his leadership,” Church added.

CHA has maintained positive relationships with all three mayors during Fischer’s tenure.

“Our charge is to motivate our families to uplift. I love my work and the results we are seeing, and the contract extension provides me and our staff the signal we need moving forward,” Fischer said.

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