JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City Housing Authority (JCHA) commissioners pledged a national search for a replacement after firing then-executive director Richard McClain in April. It turned out they found their preferred option close to home.

Commissioners agreed on Sam Edwards, Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s (KHRA) deputy director, earlier this month. At their regular monthly meeting Wednesday they had nearly wrapped up particulars of an offer to the 14-year KHRA employee who JCDA Chairman Colin Johnson said had risen impressively through the ranks.

“What I loved about Sam is he started from the ground up…and to me that shows grit and integrity that he’s been there for 14 years, done a great job,” Johnson said. “All the commissioners interviewed different people about him and they all had just gleaming recommendations for this guy.”

“We’re just working out the details of what we’re going to offer him,” Johnson told other commissioners. The five-member board briefly discussed what level of metrics and potential incentive pay to work into his offer, eventually agreeing to limit that at first.

“A quantitative part of an incentive structure could be a little challenging because it’s hard to know exactly what the director really has complete control of,” Wes Fletcher said.

Johnson said Rebecca Ketchie, one of the attorneys who serves as JCHA counsel, had developed a good list along those lines. Ketchie suggested maybe including a top three priorities for Edwards’s first year and several metrics that compensation could be tied in with.

After the meeting, Johnson told News Channel 11 the board was seeking “somebody who has a future vision, who’s going to stay here a long time … Somebody who is qualified, has some experience, understands public housing, understands RAD conversions, has been helping to manage a large organization in the past and has had some success doing it.”

A partially grant-funded new apartment complex in the Johnson City Housing Authority’s Fairview neighborhood is under construction. (WJHL photo)

JCHA has completed several so-called RAD (rental assistance demonstration) projects, most notably the demolition of the old, 30-unit Dunbar complex and its replacement with 80 brand new units. Along with a sister agency, Keystone Development, JCHA has received multiple grants to help offset some of the costs of new construction, as well as using tax credit projects, which Dunbar was.

McClain had been director for more than eight years and had led every RAD project as well as several new apartment complexes that added housing stock for elderly, disabled and other at-risk people and families.

His termination came after multiple employee complaints about his management style and a hostile workplace, though. Asked about the current environment Wednesday, Adam Williams, who delivered the financial update, said “everything’s just so much better now.

“Everyone’s just doing their work, but the atmosphere is a world of difference.”

Rick Huber has been the interim director since McClain’s April 11 termination.

Johnson said the ability to get the best out of personnel and provide a tolerable workplace was an important component of the new director’s job.

“That he’s going to be good for us is what we’re looking for because we are looking forward to moving forward in a positive direction just for our staff alone,” Johnson said. “We’re wanting to take great care of our clients and our staff and I think Sam fits the bill.”