A tenant has been appointed to Anne Arundel's public housing board, after months of complaints by black leaders and housing advocates that the agency was unresponsive to residents.
County Executive Robert R. Neall, responding to the calls for better tenant representation,selected a Freetown resident this week to serve on the seven-member governing board.
Zadia Dailey, a nursing aide who has lived in Freetown since 1985, is the first resident of the 154-unit family housing community in Pasadena to serve on the board.
She will replace Shirley Alexander,who abruptly resigned in April, midway through her five-year term. Alexander, who was the only black board member, said at the time she felt increasingly "removed from the committee."
She left three weeks after opposing a proposal to recruit police officers to live in Meade Village and Freetown, then troubled by high vacancy rates and drug-related crime.
Neall recruited a resident by attending a Freetowntenant council meeting and inviting people to apply for the position, said Adrian D. Wiseman, director of the county's Human Relations Commission. The county executive interviewed three candidates before selecting Dailey, Wiseman said.
Her selection surprised and pleased community leaders who had pushed for appointing a tenant. Some housing advocates were upset when Neall chose James J. Riley, a Severna Park resident and former Republican candidate for the House of Delegates, to fill another vacancy earlier this year.
In May, a coalition of black political leaders sharply criticized the lack of tenant representation and dubbed the board "Annpartheid." The Black Political Forum urged the county executive to "change the leadership of the board and appoint tenants, blacks and housing activists to it."
Coalition president Lewis Bracy applauded Neall's appointment. "That's fantastic," he said. "I'm really glad to hear that."
The county executive also responded to the Black Political Forum's report by asking Bracy to help him select minorities and women to government commissions. In a June 25 letter, released yesterday by the Neall administration, Wiseman asked Bracy to help recruit candidates to "reflect the rich diversity that our county offers." He also invited Bracy to join the Dream Team, a new coalition working to initiate programs for children in the public housing communities.
Board Chairman Charles St. Lawrence said he called Dailey to welcome her to the next monthly meeting. St. Lawrence, who previously said he supported appointing a tenant if a suitable candidate were found, said he was "delighted that we have a seven-member board again."