After searching around the nation, the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem decided to stay local with the hiring of Kevin Cheshire to be its new executive director.

Cheshire has been the vice president of real-estate development and general counsel at HAWS since joining the organization in 2013.

HAWS announced Tuesday that Cheshire had been selected from among 35 applicants nationwide for the position.

Arthur King, who chairs the HAWS board of commissioners, said Cheshire is “wise beyond his years and exceptionally energetic in moving the housing authority forward.”

Cheshire, 38, said he was “humbled and honored” that the board had chosen him to run the agency.

“I will go to work every day and do the best I can to justify the faith they put in me,” he said.

Cheshire received his law degree from UNC School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill. He operated a private law practice, the Cheshire Law Firm, and was senior associate with the Banks Law Firm in the Research Triangle Park.

The housing authority said Cheshire has spent most of his career advising public-housing authorities throughout North Carolina on such matters as contract negotiation, regulatory compliance, real-estate development, housing management, Housing Choice voucher administration, personnel matters and the development of board policies and staff operations.

HAWS used Gans, Gans & Associates, a human-resources consulting company based in Florida, to conduct the search for Woods’ replacement.

Woods retired after leading HAWS for 13 years. When he left, Woods said he hoped that under his successor, HAWS would win a Choice Neighborhoods grant to improve the area around Cleveland Avenue Homes. HAWS created a master plan to transform the Cleveland Avenue neighborhood, and hopes to get a $30 million grant to move the plan along.

Woods established programs to build public housing that didn’t look like public housing, but he also was criticized for a plan to sell Crystal Towers, an older public-housing high-rise building near downtown Winston-Salem that serves the elderly and disabled. Work toward a sale is progressing.

Cheshire, asked if policies put in place under Woods would continue, said that the mission of HAWS stays the same: To help individuals move “in, up and out of assisted housing,” he but added that “there are a lot of different ways to arrive at the same place.”

“We need to do everything we can to make sure the housing we operate is sustainable and safe,” Cheshire said, adding that the choice on Crystal Towers was made “to stave off a potential catastrophe.”

“What we looked at was, if we took no action, we were fearful the property would become inoperable, and we would have to do emergency relocation with no viable alternative,” He said, adding that HAWS is still going through the process of getting federal approval for the sale.

HAWS plans to use money from the sale to create other public-housing sites. Cheshire said Winston-Salem has a huge gap between the amount of affordable housing available and the demand for that housing.

“We need to do everything in our power to try to address the gap between the demand and supply of affordable housing,” he said.

“All options are on the table for us as an agency,” Cheshire said. “We need to be as creative as we can be.”

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