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Shaw removed as director of housing department

Thursday, June 3, 2010 by Austin Monitor

City Manager Marc Ott has removed Margaret Shaw as director of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department. Shaw, who had been in that position for two years, has been reassigned to Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services (EGRSO), and Assistant Director Betsy Spencer will take over as acting director.


Well-placed sources indicated that Shaw clashed with Chief of Staff Anthony Snipes as well as some of her employees and members of the public.


According to a memo Ott sent to the mayor and Council, Shaw will become a senior program manager “to help lead the Global Commerce Initiative and Redevelopment under the direction of Kevin Johns,” director of EGRSO. Shaw has extensive experience in private and public project development and “will be a valuable asset to this new initiative focused on bringing jobs and increased tax base to our community,” Ott wrote.


Shaw declined to comment last night.


Council Member Sheryl Cole told In Fact Daily, “I’ve known Margaret Shaw for a number of years. She is a dynamic, energetic, smart young female. I’ve been impressed with her handling of very complex housing issues from competing sources and involving complex federal grants … I think she will bring a fresh perspective and energy to EGRSO.”


But Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Bill Spelman both said Wednesday that they were surprised by the announcement.


Leffingwell said, “I personally had only good experiences with Margaret Shaw. I had heard that she was under review, but I don’t know what it was about. All of my interactions” with Shaw “have been positive and I thought she did a good job, although I don’t intimately follow what she does. I know when she comes in and makes a presentation to Council we usually approve everything on consent. We do have a lot of faith and trust in what she does. So, I’m very surprised by it and shocked.”


Spelman said, “Margaret, from everything I could see, was exactly the kind of department head that the city needs. She did a terrific job with providing us with the kind of information we needed and making sure that affordable housing was provided as quickly and equitably as possible. I didn’t agree with everything that she did but she certainly knew her job very, very well.”


He concluded, “I would very much like an explanation for why as superlative a department director as Margaret should be moved elsewhere.”


Spencer, who will be acting director, has 20 years’ experience with community development and human development programs. Prior to moving to Austin last December, she was chief operations officer for the San Antonio Alternative Housing Corp. 


Rebecca Giello, who will serve as interim assistant director, has been with the city for 12 years, including the past two with neighborhood housing.

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