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Voinovich School alum, Zac Fosler, center-right, and others with the Ypsilanti Housing Commission at the new Parkridge ribbon cutting.
Voinovich School alum, Zac Fosler, center-right, and others with the Ypsilanti Housing Commission celebrate the new Parkridge ribbon cutting.

Executive MPA alumnus helps improve public housing quality for hundreds

Daniel Kington
February 28, 2018

Fosler, ZacZac Fosler had completed a bachelor of science in entrepreneurship and wasn’t quite sure what to do next. Then he landed a job with a public housing authority and discovered a passion for public administration that he didn’t know he had.

Fosler gained the practical, on-the-job experience necessary to become the executive director at the Gallia Metropolitan Housing Authority in Gallia County, Ohio. However, he was still young, and recognized that he needed more experience to do his job as best he could. That drive to improve his performance and advance his career ultimately led Fosler to enroll in the Ohio Executive Master of Public Administration program at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

“One thing I really liked about the OEMPA program was that I could actively apply what I learned in class to my work,” Fosler said.

The program gave Fosler the resources, experience and inspiration to engage in new projects. For instance, Fosler used his program evaluation and strategic planning classes to design a summer “lunch and learn” program for Gallia’s public housing residents. He also improved communication tools for staff members.

It also prepared him for a new job, as the executive director and CEO of the Ypsilanti Housing Commission in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

“My experience at the Voinovich School both helped me land the job with the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and develop the skills necessary for the position,” Fosler said. “Most importantly, I developed a new outlook on public administration. I began thinking about every action I took in my career in the context of how it promotes public value, whether the action is reasonable and able to succeed, and whether the public will find the action worthwhile. I also took away specific skills like program evaluation and academic writing, which have definitely helped me to be successful.”

Fosler expected his position at the Ypsilanti Housing Commission to be similar to his work at previous troubled housing authorities, which largely entailed helping public housing and Section 8 programs recover within the confines of diminishing federal funding. However, when Fosler took on the position of executive director, he found himself leading an exciting new project.

Most of the commission’s housing dates to the 1940s and ‘70s, and had fallen into a state of disrepair. Many homes had cockroach infestations or other severe problems – conditions that Fosler says “people shouldn’t be living in.” While this was not the fault of the housing commission, which was operating on a very limited budget, Fosler oversaw the commission’s transition to a new funding model that made the program eligible to receive low-income housing tax credits. The tax credits gave the program vast new resources, allowing it to realize a long-standing dream of rebuilding or renovating each of the hundreds of properties it operates without raising rents.

Old Parkridge homes New Parkridge homes
Old and new Parkridge homes  

The reconstruction projects eliminated infestation issues and provided many residents with front and back yards, porches and driveways. Furthermore, all of the commission’s major sites now have on-site managers and social workers as well as community centers that feature kitchens, computer labs and areas for residents to gather and hold events.

“I love my job now more than I ever have,” Fosler said. “I feel really good about what I do, and I feel like I have a pretty wide impact on a lot of people. We’ve been able to make a number of improvements in our residents’ quality of life, helping them to get into more stable homes and better provide for themselves.”