Dennis Russell is stepping down as executive director of the Union Housing Authority, but folks will soon see him and others involved with new initiatives to provide better housing locally.
Russell and the new executive director, Robbie Littlejohn, are among a group of people working to form the Union County Community Development Corporation. The mission of the non-profit board will be to fund initiatives to provide decent and affordable housing to low- to moderate-income persons and their families, provide education and counseling to them and their families on self-sufficiency and to promote economic development for these people and their families.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here working with our residents and staff and I am going to miss everybody,” said Russell, who has been elected chairman of the UCCDC board. “But we are developing a non-profit organization here; we had our first meeting last week and this will give me an opportunity to still be involved in trying to improve housing in Union County and surrounding counties.”
Russell, who turned 65 in May, said he felt like now was the time to retire.
“I wanted to do some things while I still felt like it,” he said. “I have three grandchildren and one on the way. I wanted to spend more time with them and hunting and fishing.”
Russell told the Housing Authority Board in May that he intended to retire. He agreed to stay on through the end of July to work with Littlejohn.
The executive director of the Housing Authority reports to a seven-member board. His duties include overseeing a staff of 13 people, maintaining and supervising 287 public housing units and 54 multi-family units at Lakeside Manor Apartments. The Housing Authority also inspects 240 Section 8 vouchers throughout the community, making sure they are up to standard.
One accomplishment during Russell’s time as executive director was the installation of central heat and air in the 287 public housing units.
Russell said he feels like he is leaving the Housing Authority in good hands with Littlejohn. The two men have a lot in common. Russell and his wife, Barbara, have two sons, Patrick and Stephen. Russell is vice chairman of the deacons at his church, Mon-Aetna Baptist. He also co-teaches a Sunday School class, sings in the choir, is assistant treasurer and a member of the finance committee.
Littlejohn is retired as institutional administrator at Upstate Evaluation Center and most recently worked as Union County coordinator of the Juveniles Experiencing Excellence Program. He and his wife, Wanda, have two sons, Jeff Gault and Rob Littlejohn. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Union and serves on the board of directors. He is treasurer of the Union Community Foundation and is a Union County Disabilities and Special Needs Board member. He is an active member and church treasurer at Bethlehem United Methodist Church.
“I think Robbie is an excellent choice to be the new executive director,” Russell said. “He has people skills and that is very important in the type of work we do here. That’s important not only for our residents but also for our staff, the commissioners and the community. I think Robbie will do a great job.”
Littlejohn said he appreciates the excellent staff at the Housing Authority, including Katie Jenkins, an employee for 40 years who is assistant director with the main duty of overseeing finances and the budget. He said he appreciates getting to work side by side with Russell.
“He has been a blessing,” Littlejohn said. “Had he not stayed on, the transition would have been more difficult for me. He has helped me establish the foundation I needed to serve as director.”
In the future, Littlejohn said he wants to continue the mission of the Housing Authority of Union by helping to provide quality, affordable housing in a non-discriminatory manner to eligible families in the city and county of Union.
Littlejohn said he is excited about the possibilities the Union County Development Corporation brings. He is chief executive officer of the corporation. Some potential projects that the group might seek funding for include dormitories at USC-Union, more housing for the elderly — perhaps with a nurse on site — and a homeless shelter.
“Strategies used to implement and promote our mission include the use and promotion of charitable donations from the public, state and federal grants and financial assistance and training/technical assistance programs,” he said.