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BREAKING: Columbia Housing Authority Executive Director announces retirement

Gilbert Walker issued an apology to displaced Allen Benedict Court residents "for everything...
Gilbert Walker issued an apology to displaced Allen Benedict Court residents "for everything that has happened" during a public meeting on Thursday. (Source: WIS)
Published: Feb. 21, 2019 at 11:28 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After more than 50 years working at the Columbia Housing Authority, Executive Director Gilbert Walker announced his retirement Thursday night.

The announcement came after the board of commissioners spent more than two hours in executive session. Upon returning, Walker was not present. Housing authority attorney Bob Coble made the announcement, citing a letter written by Walker.

The letter says in part, "In ending my over 50 years of employment with the Columbia Housing Authority, I regret the current events will overshadow the multiple outstanding achievements of the Columbia Housing Authority during my tenure. The Columbia Housing Authority has made a positive difference in the quality of life for thousands of citizens of Columbia."

Coble said the housing authority will appoint an interim executive director and will begin a nationwide search for a permanent executive director in the coming weeks. The letter lists June 30 as Walker's official last day. Coble said he will aid in the transition as a new director is brought on board, but that will be the extent of his duties.

Commissioner Ernest Cromartie proposed two motions after the announcement, both of which passed. The first recommendation made outlines the need for two new positions that will serve as executive officers. One person will oversee quality control and the other will oversee health and human safety.

In addition, he recommended moving forward, creating an agreement between the housing authority and the city of Columbia that would require correspondence anytime Columbia police or fire department officials are called to a housing authority property.

Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah released a statement stating:

"That’s a positive development. Given the numerous, serious failings of the Housing Authority, new leadership is badly needed. Moving forward, the Housing Authority must get serious about making sure adequate accountability is in place to avoid future crises and make sure the concerns of residents are being heard. And that must be City Council’s priority during the process of selecting new commissioners.”

South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin also released a statement say:

“We wish Mr. Walker the best in his retirement & thank him for his years of service to the Columbia Housing Authority,”

This is a developing story. Stay with WIS for the latest updates.

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