Maria Catron, deputy director of the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, will become the executive director of the Oak Ridge Housing Authority in September.
Jean Lantrip, ORHA Board chair, announced the board’s decision to name Catron the new executive director, a press release said.
“In her visit to Oak Ridge, Maria impressed us with her serious interest in improving public housing through community projects and her history of collaborating with a number of stakeholders, including city government,” Lantrip said in the press release. “With her outgoing personality, she has the knack of connecting with everyone she meets.”
Catron, who has worked with the Kingsport housing agency since 2004, began her career there as grants and community development coordinator, later serving as Hope VI community supportive services coordinator and self-sufficiency and homeownership administrator before becoming deputy director in 2014.
“The experience that I bring to Oak Ridge is a combination of working with families, working with rental programs and redevelopment, and understanding the bigger picture,” Catron said. “When you do development work, it is not just about a piece of land, but also about the community as a whole.”
Planning is key, she said, and she intends to work with community partners to develop solid plans before the first shovel goes in the ground.
As a grant writer for KHRA, Catron helped bring in more than $1 million in grants for housing assistance for homeless individuals and for supportive housing grants, the press release said. She also helped the agency win an $11.9 million federal HOPE VI grant for community revitalization in 2006 and managed programs resulting from the grant.
The HOPE VI grant brought 54 units of senior housing in a renovated former Kingsport school. It provided for 33 single-family homes for home ownership and replaced 92 units of public housing built in 1941 with 38 units, including 30 single-family homes and eight duplex units for individuals working toward self-sufficiency, Catron said.
She managed the grant’s Community Supportive Services program through KHRA’s Fresh Start Foundation, which involved partnering with other agencies, programs, and service providers to help those in public housing move toward housing and income self-sufficiency or toward a more stable, fulfilling life if self-sufficiency isn’t feasible.
“This is more than a job,” Catron said. “I am passionate about affordable housing opportunities and want to be vested in the community and really make a difference in people’s lives.”
She added that she was drawn to Oak Ridge because many organizations working on affordable housing—the housing authority, the Oak Ridge Land Bank, the Oak Ridge city staff, and others—all seem to be “on the same page,” the press release said.
“I want to be part of that conversation. When folks working together have a common goal and passion about making a difference in the community, extraordinary things happen,” Catron said.
“With Maria here as the executive director of not only the Oak Ridge Housing Authority, but also the Oak Ridge Housing Authority Development Corporation, we will have more opportunities to develop affordable housing within the city. I can’t wait to start this new adventure,” said Tom Beehan, Housing Development Corporation chair.
Catron will replace Jim Ratliff, an ORHA staff member who has been serving as interim executive director and who will remain on the staff.
Catron has achieved several professional development certifications through the Nan McKay Public Housing Management Training program and the NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling. She attended Northeast State Community College and DeVry University.
Lantrip said that Catron’s leadership abilities were also evidenced in her current positions as senior vice president for the Tennessee Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, treasurer of the Tennessee Affordable Housing Coalition board, and on the finance and membership committees of the Fahe board, which works to eliminate poverty in the Appalachian region.
The Oak Ridge Housing Authority manages public housing units and aims to provide quality, affordable housing and foster self-sufficiency in the community, the press release said. The Oak Ridge Housing Authority Development Corporation was formed in 2018 to advance development initiatives and bring about improvements in neighborhoods.
This press release and photo were submitted by Kay Brookshire.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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