Meet Jeffery Patterson, CEO of Ohio’s Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), one of the largest public housing authorities in the nation with about 10,500 housing units, 15,000 Housing Choice Vouchers, and nearly 55,000 residents and participants in its programs.
In addition to leading CMHA, he has another big role this year—president of the board of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA).
What was your first job, and what did it teach you?
The first job that I really worked was doing park maintenance. I used to cut grass and do landscaping along Martin Luther King Boulevard in Cleveland. I did that for about three years while in college. After I graduated, I went to City Hall and applied for an internship in labor relations in Mayor George Voinovich’s office. I got that job, and that’s where I started my career. That first job taught me whatever you want to do in life, you have to be prepared to put the work in to do it. Every summer when I came home and worked that job, it motivated me to go back to school to take care of business and position myself to have different employment opportunities as I moved ahead. It gave me a good worth ethic.
What was your first housing-related job?
Some of the work that I did with the city of Cleveland had sprinkles of housing, but I really didn’t get two feet into housing until I came to the housing authority. I started with the housing authority Jan. 28, 2002. I’m starting my 20th year. I came over as the director of personnel and human resources, and I worked my way up through the ranks as deputy executive director and chief of staff and then moving to CEO. Each step, I learned more about the industry and how important it is to have a very unique and flexible skill set in order to effectively manage in this area.
What was a pivotal moment in your career?
There were two. One goes back to the very beginning when I had an opportunity to come into the public sector. When I started in the public sector Dec. 29, 1989, that’s when I started my first full-time job, I never thought that I would still be in it almost 33 years later. It’s just in the blood now. I love what I do. I love the opportunity to work with people and to try to give people opportunities to be successful.
We were redeveloping one of our sites. As we were getting ready to demolish the site, one of our residents said to me, “This is beautiful Mr. Patterson. This is good thing. I just hope that I live to see the day that this happens.” She did. She was about 80, and she didn’t see many days after that. Sometimes you have people who so often hear promises and are told things are going to happen. To actually be part of some of those things happening, it struck home with me. It ignited even more of a fire to continue to do those things.
What is CMHA working on this year?
We have a Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant. We’re working on that with our partner, The Community Builders. We had a groundbreaking last October. It’s a major redevelopment of a building that was created in the 1940s, and it will be part of the development that’s going on in the greater community as a whole. Sometimes, our public housing is viewed as an island, off to itself. It’s great when we’re part of what’s going on. We’re viewing the community as one.
Have you seen a change in the population of residents you are serving?
We created housing for seniors who have custody of children, minors. Griot Village is an intergenerational development. For a host of reasons, there are parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who thought they were done with parenting, but for different circumstances they find themselves raising a child. This development gave us opportunity to bring 40 such families together and provide them with supportive services.
What’s on your agenda as CLPHA president?
The discussion about the Build Back Better plan is very important. Looking at what’s in that and trying to find as many ways to get the key components out there and utilized by housing authorities is important. We are in desperate need of capital improvements and other areas. We need to invest in housing authorities and invest in providing them with resources to serve the people we need to serve.
In addition, CLPHA has done a phenomenal job of supporting the housing authorities during this pandemic. The forums they were able to conduct were instrumental in allowing housing authorities to digest, process, and learn from each other about something that none of us had a clue of what to do or how to deal with it. I commend them with having the foresight to have these discussion and give people a chance to exchange information.
What’s a good move that CMHA made during COVID-19?
The vaccine clinics were very good. I also think some of the calls we made to residents were helpful, particularly at the onset because people were scared. Every day on TV you were seeing that a high number of people were passing away. It was a scary time. We tried to give a feeling that we were there for residents. We didn’t shut down. We didn’t go to working remotely. We were here.
Who’s your favorite fictional character?
I love all the Rocky movies. I can recite you lines from all of them.
What’s next for Jeffery Patterson?
For me, it’s to do the best that I can for the housing authority. I’m here as long as the residents are happy. We have some exciting stuff going on, and I’m excited about being a part of it. And, I want to do the best that I can for CLPHA.