Richard Whiting is retiring after 40 years with the Auburn Housing Authority. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Since it was founded in the mid-1960s, the Auburn Housing Authority has had just two executive directors.

Soon, it will get its third.

Richard Whiting, who has worked for the housing authority for 40 years and led it for more than 30, will retire in early spring.

“Having some new blood with some new ideas, some new energy, will be a good thing,” said Whiting, 65.

Whiting started his career working for the Depositors Trust Co., the predecessor to Key Bank. He was in management training, but, it turned out, he was not crazy about banking.

“There were certain aspects of it I liked but, you know, it was a job out of college,” he said. “I quit that job and was picking apples at Wallingford’s Orchard for a brief interlude, and then the job opened up at Auburn Housing. So I came over here.”

Whiting joined the Housing Authority in 1979 to run the Section 8 housing program.

“The banking background was actually good because Harry (Woodward Jr., then executive director) was looking for somebody who could do math,” Whiting said. “This was back in the days when you didn’t have computers and you actually had to calculate stuff.”

He was promoted to deputy director in the early 1980s and then executive director in 1985, after the retirement of Woodard, the housing authority’s first — and, at that point, only — director.

Over the next 34 years, Whiting would lead the housing authority through some significant changes. It more than doubled the number of apartment units it oversaw, from 261 in 1979 to 564 today, with the addition of New Auburn Place, Auburn Esplanade, Broadview Acres, Webster School and the Roak Block, among others. It’s also more than doubled the number of vouchers it gives out to help people with affordable housing.

But of all the changes, Whiting is most proud of two things. One happened about 15 years ago. That’s when Auburn became one of the first housing authorities in the country to go smoke free.

“We were considered very radical when we did that,” Whiting said.

When the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development required all public housing to go smoke free a few years ago, Whiting said, it used some of the same language the Auburn Housing Authority had adopted a decade before.

Whiting’s other proudest achievement took place around 2003. That’s when the housing authority restored a cupola to Barker Mill Arms, the old mill-turned-apartment-building that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

At the time, Whiting had read a Sun Journal story about the loss of a cupola on another old mill and it had upset him.

“Yes, it costs money to do historic preservation, but they’re landmarks,” he said. “I’ll be up at East Avenue in Lewiston or other places, higher points of land around Lewiston-Auburn, and I’ll see that cupola and it just makes me smile. This is a beautiful building. It’s got the cupola that is very close to what was on the building originally. And it serves a purpose — it protects the building underneath it. It’s not just ornamentation. It has a physical benefit to the property as well.”

After 40 years with the housing authority, Whiting told his board of commissioners last March he planned to retire in early spring 2020.

“Time for somebody else to take a turn at it,” he said.

The job, posted earlier this month, seeks a person who can direct an organization with 177 public housing units in five developments, 590 units of Section 8 housing, three Section 8 projects with 291 units and other properties, as well as a staff of 30 employees and the management of several related nonprofit corporations.

Whiting hopes to have his successor in place by March or April.

In retirement, Whiting may use his extra free time to ski, bike and play golf. But as a volunteer and board member for local organizations, he has no plans to leave Auburn.

“I’ll have some things to do,” he said.

 


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