YMHA Director Carmelita Douglas to retire
By Peter H. Milliken
Carmelita Douglas has announced her retirement as the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority’s executive director, effective Feb. 28.
Jason Whitehead, who is now the authority’s deputy executive director, will succeed her as executive director.
Douglas was appointed YMHA executive director in May 2012.
A Youngstown native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in health education from Youngstown State University.
She was drug-elimination program coordinator at the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny County Housing Authority before joining the housing authority here.
Douglas served as drug-elimination program director and grant application writer, program planning and monitoring administrator, director of special projects, director of internal audit and interim executive director before being appointed YMHA executive director.
A major milestone under her directorship was the November 2013 dedication of the Village at Arlington, a mixed-income, affordable housing community that replaced the last portion of the 1938-vintage Westlake Terrace apartments on the North Side.
“I started out with the authority as a grant writer, and one of the first major things was being able to obtain the grant for the revitalization of Westlake Terrace, and that took several years to come to fruition,” Douglas said when asked about her major accomplishments at YMHA.
“One of my proudest moments was when it was all done, and people were able to go into those new, beautiful homes,” she added.
“I have 23 years here at the authority, and age is a factor,” Douglas, who will turn 70 in April, said of her reasons for retiring.
Her mother, Valentina Williams, who lives with her, is 107 years old. “I want to be able to spend some quality time with her,” Douglas said.
“She’s originally from Cuba, and we’re going to take a trip to Cuba,” Douglas said.
Gary Singer, a member of the YMHA board of commissioners, credited Douglas with achieving 100 percent occupancy in YMHA buildings.
“We have gone from a substandard housing authority in the last four or five years to almost a high performer. We’re a standard performer, but we’re up to 87 percent,” in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ratings, he said.
“Our public-housing units are in good shape,” he said of those currently in use.
“Carm saw us through the sequestration period” of federal funding cuts, observed Gwendolyn Bush, YMHA board chairwoman.
“She works really closely with the staff, and they work well with her,” Bush said. “She got us through the tough times.”
“Jason brings a lot of knowledge and information, simply because he has worked in different positions with the city prior to this,” Bush said of Whitehead, who was chief of staff for former Mayor Jay Williams.
“He has a great interest and concern for this community and also the housing authority,” Bush said of Whitehead.