Thursday, 01 December 2022

Leadership changes at Rural Communities Housing Development Corp.

UKIAH – Duane Hill formally announced his retirement Wednesday after 32 years as chief executive officer of the Rural Communities Housing Development Corp. (RCHDC).

Bruce Alfano, former executive director of West County Community Services, a Sonoma County nonprofit human service organization, is replacing Hill.

This change in leadership comes after a yearlong executive search conducted by the RCHDC Board of Directors, in which more than 30 applicants from across the country were interviewed.

The directors culminated the search in December, when the top two candidates underwent a round of interviews with the RCHDC Board of Directors and staff members as well as local community leaders.

RCHDC is the winner of the 2006 Stars of Lake County “Organization of the Year” award has built six complexes for seniors, disabled individuals and most recently, farmworkers, in Lakeport, Kelseyville, Clearlake and Lucerne. The agency’s most recent effort is a 50-unit complex for low-income families in Nice, scheduled for a 2010 opening.

One of Lake and Mendocino counties’ more controversial figures, Hill is known for his flamboyant dress, his copious collection of hats and his agency’s affordable housing developments, which have been the subject of fierce debate at Board of Supervisors’ meetings for many years.

Born and raised in Red Bluff, Hill left his job at a lumber products firm in 1969 and took a position in the Lassen-Modoc-Plumas-Tehama Community Action Agency where he established a welfare-rights organization, created a housing authority and expanded the service menu of that agency to include a variety of services, including Tehama County’s first senior center.

Hill left Red Bluff to attend college in Mendocino County, eventually graduating from Sonoma State University with a degree in psychology. During this time, he worked as housing specialist for Ukiah-based North Coast Opportunities.

This led to the formation of the Rural Communities Housing Development Corp., incorporated as a nonprofit organization in November 1975.

By 1978, RCHDC opened the Walnut Village senior housing complex in Ukiah and, in 1979, the Sunshine Manor development in Lakeport.

Over the course of his career Hill has maintained longstanding relationships “on both sides of the aisle” with politicians, financiers and policymakers in local, state and national arenas and has received a Congressional Certificate of Appreciation for his work in rural affordable housing. On April 2 Hill won the Lifetime Achievement Award from NeighborWorks, a national consortium of affordable housing developers.

New RCHDC chief executive officer Bruce Alfano graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in the mid-1970s before going on to receive a juris doctorate from the Howard University School of Law, where he was one of six white students in this traditionally African-American college.

Alfano moved to Northern California more than 30 years ago and, like Hill, worked at North Coast Opportunities. He was elected to Willits City Council in 1986, re-elected in 1990 and 1994, and served as mayor of Willits from 1990 to 1992. In 1997, Alfano accepted the position of executive director with West County Community Services in Guerneville and has worked there ever since.

“Duane’s achievements are amazing and it was difficult to fill his position. However, the Board of Directors is extremely confident in Bruce and believes him to be the best person to lead RCHDC into the future,” said RCHDC Board of Directors Chairperson and former Lake County Deputy Redevelopment Director Andy Peterson.

Alfano’s first day on the job was Monday, April 1, although Hill will continue to work for the organization in an advisory capacity until May 8. The RCHDC Board of Directors is hosting a dinner in Duane Hill’s honor on April 26 at the Ukiah Convention Center.

RCHDC is the largest affordable housing developer in rural Northern California. The agency serves between 1,500 and 2,000 seniors, low-income families, farm workers and the physically and mentally disabled people annually and controls 10 limited liability corporations in five counties, which together manage more than $200 million in assets.

The agency employs more than 80 individuals, has an annual budget of $2.3 million and either owns or manages over 1,000 affordable housing units throughout Northern California and western Nevada.

In addition to winning a 2005 Stars of Lake County award, RCHDC is an inaugural member of the California Housing Consortium’s “Affordable Housing Hall of Fame” and a charter member of NeighborWorks, the nation’s largest affiliation of nonprofit housing development organizations.


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