cook

COOK

The Kokomo Housing Authority (KHA) soon will have new leadership.

After serving in the position for seven-and-a-half years, KHA Chief Executive Officer Debra Cook will be stepping down at the end of the year. The move, she said, was prompted by a personal decision to pursue a job opportunity in the Indianapolis area.

“I was actually offered a job in the Indy area. My husband has driven back and forth to Indianapolis for six years. This job came up. It was just the timing. Everyone is speculating about it. There is no conspiracy theory here. The job came up, and we had been talking about it for about a year. It was just an opportunity, so I took it,” said Cook.

Cook first joined the KHA in April 2012 and eventually moved up the ranks to become the organization’s chief executive officer. In that time, the organization underwent a number of changes and undertook projects likely to create positive impacts for years to come.

Most recently, the KHA, under Cook’s leadership, led the charge in the initiative to launch Sargent Place. The 35-unit supportive housing initiative, projected for completion by the end of 2020, is a first for the region. The $7.5 million development will offer wraparound services for homeless families dealing with drug addiction, offering them a place to live while also receiving the on-site services.

Cook also pointed to Trailside Homes, which is currently under construction, as being an achievement she’s proud to tout. That project, consisting of 45-units of affordable housing, is located on the city’s south side and is emblematic of the direction Cook said the housing authority needs to continue to go in with public-private partnerships in order to properly meet housing needs.

“I feel good about getting the ball rolling and getting things going in that direction. I think over the years I’ve been here I’ve brought in some very good staff who are very well qualified, educated, professional, and up to speed. I feel like I’m handing the ball over to a very good team. I’m excited about that and to get those projects rolling,” said Cook.

The question of who will replace Cook is now on the table.

According to Paul Munoz, chairman of the KHA Board, the replacement process is underway. He said the KHA is fielding applications for the position. The board will be tasked with making a final decision after the applicant pool is narrowed by the board’s executive committee. The hope is that a new chief executive officer can be selected prior to Cook’s last day on Dec. 31 so the newly-appointed individual can learn from Cook.

“Losing that knowledge without having someone to pass it along to would be a shame,” said Munoz.

In reflecting on Cook’s time with the KHA, Munoz applauded her service to the community.

“I can say we really appreciate everything she’s done for the KHA and the opportunity she has given our residents that weren’t originally there through some of the new programs we’ve brought on and continuing to grow that organization to what it is today,” said Munoz. “She’s done a fabulous job, and we’re thankful to have had her for the time we did.”