Housing Authority selects five finalists for new position

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— The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has settled on five asset/program manager finalists who bring a variety of real estate, development and management experiences to the table.

The five finalists, all of Routt County, are Bruce Banisky, Mark O'Reilly, Mary Alice Page-Allen, Sylvia Watkins-Castillo and Abby Varner.

The Housing Authority received 39 applications for the position, which is the only one in YVHA's 2009 budget. The position will pay $50,000 to $60,000 a year and will be responsible for the continued management of Hillside Village Apartments, Fox Creek Village and the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park. The asset/program manager will monitor deed restrictions and administer Housing Authority programs such as down-payment assistance. Because of budget cuts, the Housing Authority eliminated its three previous staff positions at the end of 2008 and will suspend active affordable housing development efforts in 2009.

Banisky is an independent real estate broker in Steamboat Springs. From 2005 to 2007, he was a compliance specialist with National Church Residences in Columbus, Ohio. From 2002 to 2005, he was an owner representative with Mountain Resorts in Steamboat. His prior experiences include several posts in real estate and property management in the Denver area. In his cover letter, Banisky admits he has little experience with nonprofit organizations but writes that he has "extensive experience" with affordable housing programs, including tax credits.

"I believe, if given the opportunity, my work ethic and experience would benefit the Routt County affordable housing program through the Yampa Valley Housing Authroity," Banisky wrote.

O'Reilly has worked with numerous nonprofit organizations on the Western Slope and in the Denver area, including service on several boards of directors. His work experience primarily is in real estate, land acquisition and development. From 2005 to 2007, he was vice president and project manager at Alpine Mountain Ranch, a 1,216-acre land preservation subdivision south of Steamboat Springs.

"Because real estate is a highly regulated industry, I also have extensive experience in the areas of public communication, building positive working relationships with elected officials, city/county staff and community groups, and identifying shared interests and opportunities," O'Reilly wrote in his cover letter.

Page-Allen is a former Routt County planner and currently a land-use consultant who serves as president of the Housing Authority's board of directors. From 1996 to 2001, Page-Allen was the planning director for Uintah County, Utah. Page-Allen wrote in her cover letter that she understands the challenges facing the Housing Authority and has the skills necessary to guide it through a difficult period.

"I have experience working with limited resources, prioritizing workloads, and knowing when to say no to or reprioritizing additional responsibilities," Page-Allen wrote.

For the past two years, Varner has worked for Resort Ventures West, developer of the high-end Wildhorse Meadows development near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. Varner started as an operations and marketing coordinator. In November 2007 - after receiving her Colorado broker's license - she moved to leading on-site sales of First Tracks, the affordable housing component of the development required by the city's affordable housing ordinance.

"As a real estate professional in a resort community, I realize the importance of affordable homeownership opportunities for locals," Varner wrote in her cover letter. "This is why I have decided that it is my desire to become more involved in affordable housing in Steamboat."

Watkins-Castillo is the only one of YVHA's three former employees to apply for the position of asset/program manager. Watkins-Castillo was YVHA's housing qualifications specialist before the organization was restructured. She also is the president and sole proprietor of a research service firm based in Oak Creek, where she lives. Before moving to Routt County, she held a number of research positions in the Midwest.

"In my six months with YVHA, I have become familiar with most aspects of ongoing operation and have the ability to quickly learn and become proficient in those areas in which I was not involved," Watkins-Castillo wrote.

YVHA board members will interview the five finalists on Friday.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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