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T.I. Area Habitat for Humanity no longer has an executive director

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Filling the executive director position at the Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity was a bit premature, its board president says.

Walter H. Plumley said the agency has been without an executive director since mid-October, just three months after William R. Davis Jr. was hired for that position. Mr. Plumley said the board was not quite ready for such a position.

“We put the cart before the horse,” he said. “We’re taking this time to put policies in place, and go through that strategic planning so we’re prepared. It’s to be better prepared, and know what we’re doing and what we want to do. We weren’t working as a cohesive unit.”

Mr. Plumley didn’t comment on Mr. Davis’s leadership, but said issues about the executive director position stemmed from the board of directors.

“We’ll come to a day where we will have an executive director and be on the same page,” Mr. Plumley said. “Ideally, when the executive director came on board, we were going to go from a working board to a governing board. We had to find out what we want to do. We’re a working board and a governing board now. That hasn’t changed a whole lot. With anticipation and excitement, we jumped ahead on an executive director. We took a leap of faith, so to speak.”

The agency announced in February that it would begin an executive director search, and by late June, board members asked Mr. Davis to be the local Habitat affiliate’s first paid executive director. He began work July 1, but his tenure ended up being shorter than anticipated.

Mr. Plumley said the board had to go through a lengthy process, but it’s something that will have to be repeated when the agency is truly ready to have an executive director. The simple goal of the executive director, he said, will be to provide oversight and outreach.

The annual salary Mr. Davis was making — which Mr. Plumley would not discuss — will remain in a money market account. Mr. Plumley said the funds will sit there in order to be available when needed for the next executive director’s salary.

In summer 2011, the board considered a paid, part-time office worker, but that never came to fruition.

While the board figures out its strategic plan, Mr. Plumley said, board members will be busy with many projects. For a few months, the board has considered renovating homes in addition to its long-established practice of building homes.

“It takes a long time to build a house from the ground up, and it takes a considerable amount of expense,” Mr. Plumley said. “We want to increase the number of families we put into homes. That would give us another avenue to work with.”

He said the agency is struggling with building up the amount of land it purchases for future home construction. Empty building lots in and outside the city of Watertown, Mr. Plumley said, are one of many things on the agency’s wish list.

Other items on the list are tools and a trailer to haul those tools and other equipment to building sites. Those items have been needed since $4,600 in tools and two storage trailers worth $12,000 were lost in a Sept. 26 fire that the Watertown Fire Department believes was intentionally set, possibly to cover up a burglary. The fire occurred at 1130 Superior St., where Habitat was to build its next home for a family.

Since the insurance deductible on the tools claim is $5,000, there will be no recovery of tools. With another $5,000 deductible on the trailer loss, Mr. Plumley said, he’s hopeful the agency will be able to buy one storage trailer. An appeal to the community to help restock the agency’s tool supplies has reached $1,000.

Mr. Plumley said the fire delayed construction of the house, so the foundation won’t be poured until spring.

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