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Willmar's longtime HRA boss heads to Glenwood

WILLMAR -- Dorothy Gaffaney, longtime Willmar Housing and Redevelopment Authority staff member and executive director, has resigned to take a position with the Glenwood Housing Authority. Gaffaney's last day at Willmar was Thursday.

The Willmar City Council created the HRA in 1966 and Gaffaney joined the agency in 1970 as the assistant to Irv Rau and Roy Soderlund who were sharing the executive director's position. For the last 25 years of her 40-year career in Willmar, Gaffaney has been HRA executive director.

Gaffaney's first day on the job involved opening bids for Lakeview Apartments, the agency's high-rise public housing project on Seventh Street Northwest. Lakeview, which has 127 units, was considered a large high rise compared with high rises in other cities, she said.

Besides Lakeview, the Willmar HRA owns Family Public Housing, Highland Apartments (for elderly disabled persons) and Country View Place (permanent supportive housing).

Willmar HRA manages West Central Mental Health Housing, Dana Heights Apartments (a tax credit rural development project), and Valleyside Townhomes (a tax credit project), and is management and marketing agent for the Westwind Townhome project.

In addition, the Willmar HRA administers a housing choice voucher program and administers several programs that help persons who have serious and persistent mental illness.

The agency also administers the Small Cities Block Grant program for Willmar that assists eligible property owners in making property improvements. The Willmar HRA and Kandiyohi County HRA are working on a residential project in Pennock and the Willmar HRA is working on a commercial and rental habilitation project with downtown property owners.

Gaffaney, who lives near Glenwood, will be doing everything from property management to financial matters.

Both the city and county HRA boards have been studying the possibility of merging the two agencies. Gaffaney said the boards met Thursday morning with legal counsel and the director of the Fergus Falls Otter Tail County HRA to receive some idea of what's happening in other areas of the state.

Gaffaney said a committee representing the Willmar HRA and the Kandiyohi County HRA will be looking at options. Meanwhile, the Willmar HRA Board has appointed Nikki Ilgen, housing program supervisor, as acting director until the boards make a decision.

Gaffaney has mixed emotions about leaving.

"I'm excited about maybe slowing down a little bit in my career. I'm excited about the drive not being quite as far,'' she said.

"But it's hard to leave something when you've been here for 40 years. I'm leaving it in capable hands. I think we have excellent staff between the two HRAs and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do down the road.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150