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Leader of Spokane’s housing, homelessness initiatives to depart city at end of month

Sept. 21, 2022 Updated Sat., Sept. 24, 2022 at 2:17 p.m.

The man hired less than three months ago to lead Spokane’s housing, homelessness and community development initiatives is leaving the job at the end of September.

John E. Hall III will depart Sept. 30 for a job on the East Coast, said Brian Coddington, spokesman for Mayor Nadine Woodward. He was hired in June to lead the city’s Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services division, part of Woodward’s plan to bring stability to an office that had experienced frequent turnover.

Jenn Cerecedes, director of the Community, Housing and Human Services department, will serve as interim division director for the first two weeks of October. The position will then be filled on an interim basis by Eric Finch, who had served as head of the division prior to Hall’s hiring.

Hall informed the mayor’s office in a Sept. 14 letter that he would be leaving. The housing division, and the Spokane City Council, were informed of his departure in an email Wednesday by Spokane City Administrator Johnnie Perkins.

“It is disappointing. John’s a great individual,” Coddington said Wednesday afternoon. “He has extensive knowledge in the area of housing in particular. It’s going to be a big loss for the city.”

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs also called Hall’s departure as a major loss for the city and said he enjoyed working with him during the last two months.

Coddington said there was no timeline for naming a permanent replacement for Hall, but the importance of the position at City Hall makes naming his successor “a priority.”

Hall’s departure is just the latest in a series of staffing woes at City Hall in the department directly tasked with providing housing options for those without shelter in Spokane. That’s an issue that has prompted the declaration of a housing emergency by Woodward and an ongoing, public dispute between the city and state departments of Transportation and Commerce over the continued presence of Camp Hope, a homeless encampment on state land in East Spokane where at least 600 people are camping.

Coddington said Hall’s departure had “nothing to do with” the unfolding conflict over the homeless encampment, noting Hall had “a great opportunity” elsewhere and that Woodward wished him well in his new position.

“It’s an opportunity for him to start his own department, related to housing and community development,” Coddington said.

Hall had been “a key leader” in work to open the shelter at Trent Avenue, intended to provide safe, indoor housing for those who had been living at the Camp Hope encampment, Perkins said in his message. He had come to Spokane after serving as executive director of the Indianapolis Housing Agency and had two decades of relevant experience at the local, state and federal levels.

He had been selected by the Tacoma Housing Authority Board of Commissioners as its new executive director a year ago, but that board later rescinded its offer over allegations made about his comments during the interview process. The Tacoma board later agreed to a $300,000 settlement with Hall and apologized.

Hall was being paid an annual salary of $142,924 for his role at City Hall. Perkins did not say where Hall was leaving Spokane to work, only that it is “to build, launch, and lead a housing and community development department for a local government entity.”

Attempts to reach Hall for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Spokane has struggled to retain employees in Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services for more than a year. The division has only existed as a separate entity since 2020, when the city bifurcated Neighborhoods and Business Services.

Coddington said that as of Wednesday, there were three vacancies in the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services department, which operates within the Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services division.

Beggs said the city has “added some really good people” in the last year.

“We’re well-positioned to be successful,” he said, “but we really could use super strong senior leadership, and it’s going to be a loss not to have John, because he was definitely going to be that person for us.”

Hall was the second person to head Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services. His predecessor, Cupid Alexander, worked for the city from November 2020 until his resignation in July 2021.

Alexander, who is Black, accused Perkins of racially discriminating against him. A city-hired investigator found no evidence of racial discrimination against Alexander.

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