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CHA CEO quits after 2 years on the job

Charles Woodyard

Charles Woodyard

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Updated: November 17, 2013 6:18AM

After just two years, Charles Woodyard is stepping down as CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.

His resignation was announced Tuesday morning at a CHA board meeting, according to CHA spokeswoman Wendy Parks. In his letter, Woodyard said he hopes to spend more time with his family.

“I am pursuing other opportunities that I hope will benefit my family and my career. As you know, I have a young son who will soon begin his college career,” Woodyard wrote. “I would like to spend more time guiding him and providing him with the resources he needs to meet his own goals.”

A national search will begin for his replacement, Parks said.

City Hall sources said Woodyard’s departure stems from Emanuel’s belief that the CHA was not moving quickly enough to deliver on the long-stalled, $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation that tore down CHA high-rises and was supposed to replace them with mixed income communities.

“We were lucky to have Charles at the helm of the CHA as it updated the Plan for Transformation and responded to a changing housing market,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “I’m grateful that he spent the final years of his 30-year career here in Chicago.”

Emanuel appointed Woodyard in September 2011. Before being confirmed, Woodyard spent nine years as president and CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority in North Carolina.

In 2012, CHA broke ground on Oakwood Shores Terraces and Medical Center, the first CHA mixed-income and mixed-use community to include a medical facility. About 12,000 security cameras also were installed at family and senior public housing developments during his tenure.

In a letter to the CHA board in presenting this year’s budget, Woodyard promised an additional 525 housing units would be created by the end of the year, bringing CHA to 21,959 units or 88 percent of the CHA’s goal to have 25,000 units in the city.

Woodyard replaced Lewis Jordan, who was forced out in June 2011 amid questions about his use of a CHA credit card to pay for costly meals at upscale restaurants.

Shortly after Jordan stepped down, the CHA shelved Jordan’s controversial proposal to require all adults who currently live in or apply for Chicago public housing to be tested for drugs, including senior citizens.

Woodyard joins the long list of outsiders chewed up and spit out by Chicago’s unique brand of politics. The list includes Emanuel’s marquee hire, ousted Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

“[Woodyard] did a good job in leading the planning process. But CHA as a whole would be better served by someone who could push the implementation more quickly and more actively,” said a top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous.

Two years ago, Woodyard made the giant leap from Charlotte, N.C., to Chicago with a promise to “think outside the box” and provide more support services for displaced CHA residents.

At the time, the Plan for Transformation had already fallen five years behind schedule because of the collapse of the real estate market.

Woodyard promised to get it moving.

“Given the bare reality of this real estate market, … we will be outside of the box thinkers on this. We will use our current assets to see how we can turn those into savings, into real housing opportunities for low-income families,” Woodyard told a news conference at a mixed-income complex built in the shadows of Cabrini Green on the day of his appointment. .

“I will spend the next several months working with the staff and the board and the private sector to figure out a way to accomplish the Plan for Transformation.”

Woodyard was asked what he meant by thinking “outside the box.” Before he could answer, Emanuel stepped to the microphone in front of him.

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