Freeport, Illinois — August 30, 2017 — The Housing Authority of the City of Freeport [HACF] celebrates Mr. Larry Williams’ achievements as he has served over eight years as Chief Executive Officer and he announces his resignation. He has been a key contributor to the success of Freeport for many years through his work at HACF and community involvement.
In 2005, Mr. Williams was appointed by the Mayor to the HACF Board of Commissioners. In 2009, after the CEO search began, Mr. Williams was asked to consider applying for the CEO position and as the top candidate, he was hired first as Interim CEO and later that year as Chief Executive Officer. As CEO, Mr. Williams is responsible for the day-to-day operations of HACF, with a budget of $1.5 million and a staff of 17 employees. He is directly involved with personnel, strategic planning, budgeting, and ensuring the organization’s objectives are met. When he was hired, the Authority was facing serious financial challenges. On top of that, it created a drain on the City of Freeport’s resources as the Authority’s properties often required assistance from the Freeport police due to reports of illegal activities.
His first task as CEO in 2009 was to keep the agency out of HUD’s trouble status by completing required reports, changing staff positions, and working closely with HUD officials to pass Stop-Loss requirements and comply with HUD’s Asset Property Management. Since overcoming this challenge, Mr. Williams dedicated his time and energy to ensure the agency is a financially-solid, team-driven, resident-focused, community-involved, locally-respected and nationally-recognized agency. He empowers the HACF residents to become self-sufficient and reach their goals. His philosophy is “to provide a hand up, not a hand out” which he exemplifies through his daily living.
CEO Mr. Williams has empowered residents to reach their full potential and assist residents in becoming self-sufficient. His sincere passion for the residents and their success stems from he personally living with his family in the Freeport Housing Authority during his years as a youth.
He has developed programs throughout his time as CEO including, but not limited to the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), Teen WDI, and Junior WDI, Reading Readiness Bootcamp, Those People, Dr. Peter Flynn Scholarship Fund and Scholarship Luncheon, and Conversations Over Pizza (COP). Under Mr. Williams’ leadership, the HACF has collaborated with over 50 agencies over the years to provide supportive resources regarding financial assistance, home ownership, parenting classes, health information, jobs and soft skills training. In 2012, the agency initiated smoke-free housing.
He has also sought out and obtained over $3 million in grant funding to provide additional resources for agency capital needs and resident programs. Grants included the 2009 HUD American Reinvestment Recovery Act, PHA Energy Efficient Living Grants, HUD Family Self-Sufficiency Grants, HUD ROSS Service Coordinator Grant, HUD Safety & Security Grant, Illinois YouthBuild Weatherization Training Grant, Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity Eliminating the Digital Divide Grant, Kaboom Westview Playground and Spruce Up Grants, and Freeport Community Foundation Grants. These funds have allowed the Authority to install cameras to reduce crime and lower the strain on the City’s resources, to make the Authority a safer place to live, and to train residents to help them achieve greater independence. All of these changes have had a positive impact on the quality of life not only for the residents of the Authority’s properties, but for all of Freeport’s residents, as well as for the surrounding communities.
Mr. Williams graduated from Rutgers University Executive Director Program. He is engaged in the housing industry on all levels, attending state, regional, and national housing industry conferences and serving in a variety of capacities including, but not limited to the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA) Board of Trustees, Membership and Legislative Committees, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) Board of Governors, Emerging Leaders and Legislative Committees, and both Regional NCRC NAHRO as the Senior Vice-President and Illinois NAHRO Board as Emerging Leaders representative. Mr. Williams not only “put Freeport on the map” on regional and national levels, but Freeport is positively recognized for and considered a resource for both resident services and smoke-free housing.
Although he is heavily committed to the work of the Housing Authority, Mr. Williams knows the importance of community involvement. He currently serves on the Monroe Clinic Board, President of the Freeport Community Foundation Board, and Chairman of the Workforce Development Coalition and also involved in the Workforce Investment Board, Adult Education Area Planning Council, Freeport Fish Tank and Freeport All In Diversity Committee.
Throughout this time he has focused on workforce development while serving on the Workforce Development Coalition and the Workforce Investment Board. Since 2012, Mr. Williams has held an annual Job Fair onsite for residents which was open to the public. The past four years, the Job Fair has been part of Employment Empowerment Month, consisting of weekly workshops on topics such as Resume Writing, Interviewing Skills, Professional Dress, Identity Theft, and Soft Skills. After meeting with many employers hearing concerns and needs of employees with soft skills, in 2013 he created the Workforce Development Institute to address the lack of soft skills in current and potential workforce. WDI’s purpose is to identify Freeport as a “workforce ready community” and promote self-sufficiency. There have been over 100 graduates of whom 90% are employed. He has also partnered with Furst Staffing to hold weekly appointments onsite at HACF to provide closer convenience to clients and has collaborated with other employers to share open positions and special hiring job fairs.
During his tenure, Mr. Williams has focused on every aspect of the residents’ lives, including encouraging residents to complete high school and college, to obtain employment, to work toward rising up the ladder when employed, to improve their relationships with family, to become financially-stable and independent from public assistance, and to work on bettering their interactions with the Freeport police, among other things.
The selection of Mr. Williams for this position is a credit to the City of Freeport; numerous local, state, regional, and national organizations recognize his outstanding leadership. Mr. Williams has been recognized with awards including the Freeport Area Chamber of Commerce first-ever Rising Star Award, Rockford Chamber of Commerce 40 Leaders Under 40, the Lake County Housing Authority Rising Star Award, multiple awards from the Illinois Association of Housing Authorities Outstanding Achievement in Resident Relations and Program Creativity, the regional NCRC NAHRO Rising Star Award and Charles A. Thompson Distinguished Leadership Award. He has received national recognition from the NanMcKay & Associates, Inc. Pioneer in Housing Award in 2012 and 2015, eleven NAHRO Merit Awards for WDI and other resident services and a NAHRO Award of Excellence for Those People. Five HACF residents were also recognized on the NAHRO Roll of Achievers. Also, HACF was invited to the White House as a Better Buildings Challenge partner in being committed to reducing energy usage by twenty percent in ten years.
Most recently, under Mr. Williams’ leadership, the Housing Authority of the City of Freeport renovated the Hosmer and Brewster Highrises and converted from traditional public housing to a project-based rental assistance model using the HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. The two buildings which comprise of Brewster-Hosmer Apartments of 167 units have a mix of one and two bedroom units for residents earning up to 60% of the average median income (AMI) in the city of Freeport, Illinois.
The $20 million renovation project is using a local architect and several local contractors. Renovations will both extend the useful lifespan and enhance the quality of the developments. All kitchens, baths, and flooring will be replaced and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and roofs will be repaired. Due to market needs, all efficiency units will be reconstructed into one bedrooms. Community amenities will be upgraded to include on-site management, a patio, a computer room, surveillance cameras, a community room, and a laundry facility at both properties. Services such as classes, job fairs, seminars, and holiday events will continue to be available to residents at both properties. The Brewster-Hosmer Apartments used the Housing Credit Enrichment Program, a partner program of Housing Alliance Group, LLC and RBC Capital Markets Tax Equity Group, to allow the project to meet its guaranty obligations required by Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) investors. This program allowed the HACF to remain in control of the properties and manage it long-term. The Brewster-Hosmer Apartment rehabilitation is HACF’s first LIHTC transaction.
Mr. Williams is grateful for the opportunity to have served the Freeport community. He looks forward to moving on to work in another community and continue his professional work in the housing industry and efforts in workforce development.