Deborah L. Vincent, a former federal housing official brought in by Baltimore this year to help turn around its troubled housing agency, died Thursday at a Takoma Park hospital after suffering liver complications related to treatment of her recently diagnosed leukemia. The Silver Spring resident was 43.
Ms. Vincent, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., was seen by some as a visionary in public housing in nearly two decades with the Clearwater (Fla.) Housing Authority.
She served as executive director of the Clearwater authority from the early 1980s until the end of 1997, gaining a reputation as an innovative problem-solver in public housing. She moved on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in late 1997, where she rose to deputy chief of staff for policy under Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo.
In March, Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano named Ms. Vincent to be his second-in-command as deputy executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.
She arrived at the agency in the midst of turmoil. Mr. Graziano had ousted two top administrators of the Section 8 rent-subsidy program, which had just been the target of a scathing audit by HUD's Office of the Inspector General.
"Deborah was a driving force behind the reorganization of this agency and was an advocate for Baltimore and the nation's public housing communities," Mr. Graziano said in a statement.
"She loved the challenge. Part of the reason she was director of the Clearwater Housing Authority was they were troubled when she first started and she turned them around," said her husband, Russell E. Wilburn.
Baltimore housing authority spokesman Kevin Brown described Ms. Vincent as a dedicated, hands-on manager who often worked late hours and weekends.
"She was personable, and she was likable, but she was no-nonsense," Mr. Brown said. "She brought a new sense of checks and balances to the agency."
Last month, Mr. Wilburn said, his wife started feeling lethargic and went to the doctor for a checkup. She was hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with leukemia days later.
After weeks of treatment, she was released from the hospital, the leukemia in remission, and was back home in Silver Spring on Tuesday. On Wednesday night, Mr. Wilburn said, liver complications set in from her treatment, and she was taken to Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.
A private funeral service will be held in Florida in two weeks. A memorial service will be held in Washington the last week of next month.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Vincent is survived by her stepfather, Rudy Wiggins of Pinellas Park, Fla.; a brother, Walter Vincent of Lake City, Fla.; and three sisters, Jacqueline Cummins of Largo, Fla., Victoria Giesegh of Pinellas Park and Sherry Higgins of Lake City.