Governor LePage has nominated John Gallagher of Bath, executive director of the Westbrook Housing Authority, to take over as the head of the Maine State Housing Authority.
If appointed, Gallagher would replace former director Dale McCormick, who resigned earlier this year after a series of questions about years of wasteful spending and mismanagement at MSHA under her guidance.
In addition to serving as executive director of the Westbrook Housing Authority for 13 years, Gallagher was formerly the manager of the Development Division of Maine State Housing Authority. Prior to that, he co-owned a small real estate and management firm in mid-coast Maine.
In making the nomination, LePage stated that Gallagher’s experience in multiple levels of management, as well as his knowledge of public and private sector housing, give him a unique understanding of both the need for regulations, as well as the burden that they put on businesses.
“Mr. Gallagher’s many years of experience in housing and real estate, both in the public and private sectors, give him a keen perspective on how best to deliver MSHA programs to the people of Maine,” said Governor LePage. “I believe his ability to bridge the communication gap between the public and private sector will serve the people of Maine well.”
“I am honored to be nominated by the Governor to run MSHA,” said Gallagher. “I look forward to working with the Governor and his administration to serve the people of Maine and address their housing needs.”
The Maine State Housing Authority is an independent state agency that combines public and private housing finance to benefit Maine’s low- and moderate-income people. MSHA’s mission is to assist Maine people to obtain and maintain decent, safe, affordable housing and services suitable to their unique housing needs.
But reports from The Maine Wire revealed MSHA spending on gift cards, staff parties, massages and luxury hotels, as well as millions of dollars spent on a “carbon credit” scheme. These reports led to questions from the Maine Senate and eventually a new law that gave the governor and legislature more oversight over the agency. See the complete series of Maine Wire stories here.
MSHA board members, including State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and chairman Peter Anastos, also questioned the cost of “affordable housing” in the Portland area, where some one-bedroom apartment units were costing more than $300,000 each to construct.
Under McCormick, the agency also faced an investigation from the federal Office of the Inspector General for a series of inspection and safety failures in apartments in Norway, Maine. The Inspector General found that 91 percent of units inspected by MSHA in that case failed to meet quality standards.
Amidst the turmoil and questions surrounding spending practices and management deficiencies at the agency, McCormick resigned on March 20. Peter Merrill is serving as acting director of MSHA until the new executive director is formally confirmed.
Treasurer Poliquin, one of the more vocal members of the board, who questioned many of the spending and management practices under McCormick, praised the selection of Gallagher as new executive director.
“I completely support Governor LePage’s nomination of John Gallagher to be the new executive director of Maine State Housing Authority,” Poliquin said. “Following the Governor’s directive, our search committee led by Peter Anastos, MSHA board chair, scrutinized candidates from across the country with greatly varied backgrounds without regard to politics.
“John has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors, dealing with the very issues faced by MSHA every day,” Poliquin said. “John well fits the Governor’s goal to hire the best qualified professional to lead this critically important state authority to help vulnerable Maine families with their housing needs. Our new executive director has the strong support of the MSHA board.”
In addition to being Westbrook Housing’s executive director, Gallagher is the executive secretary and treasurer for the Authority, which also makes him the contracting officer and liaison to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He oversees the management of all Westbrook Housing property and, as president of Westbrook Development Corporation, the development of affordable housing options. He is responsible to Westbrook Housing’s Board of Directors.
Gallagher holds a Public Housing Manager Certification from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. He has also completed training with the National Development Council in multi-family housing development finance, the National Council of State Housing Agencies in housing credit underwriting and the Institute of Professional and Executive Development in affordable housing.
Active on numerous boards throughout the state, Gallagher is a past president of the board of Avesta Housing, which serves communities in York and Cumberland counties, and currently chairs its investment committee. He and his wife Pauline live in Bath.
The Legislature will convene on September 6 to vote on Gallagher’s nomination, as well as others.