Housing Authority welcomes new executive director

Published By: Editor
Published On: 21st May 2024

LaMonica hired after four-month search

On May 13, Gunnison local Melissa LaMonica spent her first day in the office as the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority’s new executive director.

Her leadership comes during a time of transition for the Housing Authority, which has struggled to find a stable footing as the organization cycled through executive directors. At the same time, the jurisdictions the organization serves — Gunnison, Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and the remainder of Gunnison County — are building new affordable housing at a record pace. The board, alongside LaMonica, hopes to expand its capacity in the coming years to keep up with the growing inventory of units and the housing needs of residents.

The search for a new executive director spanned roughly four months, and began almost immediately following the resignation of former director Andy Kadlec. He took over in late 2022 and served as executive director for a little over a year. Kadlec’s resignation left the Housing Authority’s board of directors scrambling to find new leadership during what would become the organization’s second transition in less than three years. Julie Baca served as interim director during the search.

The board selected LaMonica from its second pool of applicants, drawn to her expertise in finance, real estate and human resources at companies that ranged from a few employees to hundreds. The Housing Authority board finalized LaMonica’s contract during a regular meeting on May 9.

“The search process took some time, but part of the reason was to make sure who we were hiring was a good fit for the board, the organization and the community … What we really need right now is someone who is strong in ‘systems thinking’ and putting policies in place that can be scaled upward,” said board president Laura Puckett Daniels.

The Times sat down with LaMonica to learn more about how she plans to expand the Housing Authority’s reach into the community.

(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

Tell me more about yourself and your background. 

We moved to the valley in 2020 during COVID. Prior to that we were on the Front Range for 10 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in real estate and finance and a master’s in organizational leadership. I’ve worked in the real estate property management space at the executive level for about six years, the software space, in a dual finance and HR role and then moved into operations. We moved out here and own a business, Alpine Landscapes and Construction.

The first time we came out here was when our youngest daughter, who just graduated from Western, was probably 5 years old. We fell in love with the place. This is where we wanted to be and we kept giving it a try for many years until finally everything aligned and made sense.

Why the Housing Authority?

After my career in corporate America, I wanted to do something that contributed to the community. Then we moved here and were hit with the housing crisis personally and professionally — ourselves, our kids, our employees, and everyone we talked to.

We experienced housing insecurity ourselves. Our lease was not renewed and we were unable to find a house. So we moved into our camper the previous winter and figured we would come back in the spring and try to find housing. Fortunately we were able to buy a house while we were gone, sight unseen.

We’ve been homeowners, and I know how to buy a house. How must it feel to people who don’t have the means, or the knowledge to navigate the system? This is something that is very close to me.

Every person, agency and business is trying to address this housing problem. Are there any tools or tactics you’re not seeing here that you think may work?

There’s obviously no easy answer. There’s a lot of projects in the pipeline, and all of our jurisdictions are working hard to solve the problem. Something that I continue to hear about and dig into myself is engaging the small business owners who don’t have the money — like the local governments, the university and the hospital —  to buy housing for their people. I think that could be an opportunity because so much of our workforce is employed by the small businesses in the community.

What are your top two priorities as the new executive director? 

My top priority is to work internally to create operations that will provide [added] capacity and enable us to scale. The Housing Authority has been through a number of executive directors and needs some continuity. We need to assess how we do what we do so we can really be good at it. We have a lot of projects coming in the pipeline and want to be able to provide great service to the jurisdictions and to our community members.

Then it’s being able to support these projects as they come on board, whether it’s [through] property management, or deed restrictions. It’s going to be a lot and we need to make sure that we have the capacity to do that. One of my main priorities is to also work toward being the expert on housing in the valley for community members, business owners and our jurisdictions.

(Bella Biondini can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or bella@gunnisontimes.com.)