New housing authority director wants innovation

February 22, 2014

LaGrange Housing Authority’s newly announced executive director told a group of authority officials that it is time to innovate.

At an event Friday announcing her as the new director, Zsa Zsa Heard said the housing authority and city need to be a united front, telling LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton that they needed to partner together.

Heard said there are a lot of new idea that can be brought to the table from within as well. She said housing officials need to learn to hear ideas they’ve never touched on before.

“I want to see Troup County and LaGrange go to a different level,” she said. “And we can’t do that without innovation.”

She said people in Troup County often seem resistant to change, but she finds people often are willing to do new things if there is a consistent plan and they are heard. She said if housing officials are willing to be innovative, they can make changes happen.

“If we work together like a team and we’re consistent, we can do this together in a real different place,” Heard said.

Change has to be a collaborative effort, she noted.

“I’m not easily intimidated, and I’m not afraid,” she said. “But I will stand with you if you stand by me, because I can’t do this by myself.”

Michael Jackson, housing authority board chairman who also has served as the interim executive director since the retirement of previous executive director Pat Pittman in October, said it had been a long few months’ search for a replacement. Although the authority’s board of commissioners interviewed “great individuals,” Heard stood out.

“I’m excited about our new ED,” he said of Heard.

He will be working with Heard until she officially begins her position on May 1.

Jackson also thanked his fellow board members for the long days and nights they put in on the process.

Mayor Jim Thornton said Heard represents a wonderful opportunity for the housing authority, and the job is a wonderful opportunity for Heard. He wanted to see more cooperation between the two entities.

“I pledge from the mayor’s office that I want to be a partner with the housing authority,” Thornton said. “There is a tremendous opportunity in LaGrange to work on our housing needs.”

Thornton and board member Debbie Burdette thanked Jackson for his leadership. Burdette said everyone involved with the authority gives 100 percent and said she looks forward to working with Heard and seeing what she can accomplish.

Board member Inetha Hatten said when the board first began looking for a new executive director, they wanted someone homegrown, and were excited that they chose Heard. She said it feels like a new beginning for the authority.

Board members Carolyn Burke said she was glad to have Heard on board and believes she will bring good changes.

A 1988 graduate of Troup High School, Heard has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Tuskegee University and master’s degree in counseling and psychology from Troy State University. Heard said her background is mainly in psychology, but said it helps her understand people and she wants to engage people in the housing projects.

She said she wants to approach residents about their needs as well as staff’s needs, and try to work with community and city officials on what they can do to improve the community.

“How can I be an instrument to help?” she said.