When asked how she likes her new position as Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Paducah in comparison to her previous career as a partner in a local law firm, Melissa Yates exclaims, “I liked law but I love housing! It is rewarding and my satisfaction level is off the chart!”
No stranger to the requirements of public housing, she served as legal counsel to the Housing Authority since 2003 and her private practice experience focused on public housing issues and regulatory matters with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
Yates has been on the job since May 2015 and thinks she has the most interesting job possible. “Most people can’t say this, but I genuinely love coming to work each day,” she explains.
Although it’s her dream job, it’s not without its challenges. Her biggest hurdle has been securing sufficient HUD funding. Appropriations are set by Congress and vary year by year. This year it amounted to approximately 82 percent of budgeted needs. Melissa credits her dedicated staff of housing professionals with working efficiently to address priorities while meeting resident needs and complying with numerous and stringent HUD requirements. This year, she is proud to report that despite limited funding, they were able to use capital funds to tuck-point and paint Elmwood Court and put in new windows in the Anderson Court site.
Despite the limited funding, Melissa praises her staff for meticulous maintenance of housing units mostly built in the 1950’s, a task she admits isn’t easy. The new Executive Director feels the staff at all levels goes beyond their job requirements by asking themselves questions like, “If I was putting my mother or sister in this apartment, how would I want it to look?”
Melissa and her staff of approximately 35 housing professionals provide services for 1,600 residents and maintain 855 housing units throughout the city. She realizes public housing is sometimes negatively perceived, but she emphasizes, “My staff works too hard not to get positive recognition. I want everyone to know they do a really great job.”
She clearly loves her staff and reiterates, “They are housing professionals. We are professionals.”
Another group of professionals that she values are the staff of Paducah Bank.
“Paducah Bank focuses on relationships and works hard to maintain those relationships. Even though I have worked with them for years, until the last few months I never fully appreciated the extent of work provided to their customers,” says Yates. “All of the personal bankers, Melissa Khourie, Kelly LeNeave, Mardie Herndon, and Terry Bradley are always attentive, responsive, and ready to hold our hands and walk us through whatever is necessary. The level of service we receive is truly remarkable.”
A native of southern Illinois, Yates and her husband Greg, a CPA at Williams, Williams, and Lentz, have never regretted their move to Paducah almost 15 years ago. Their children are Brendan, a Paducah Tilghman High School senior; Sloane, a kindergartener; and their youngest, Lincoln, who is 3.
Melissa Yates summarizes her feelings about her career change. “When practicing law, I was confident what I was doing was important to clients but not sure if it was really making a difference in the community. Now I’m certain I’m doing something to make our community even better. Everyone deserves a home and providing quality, affordable housing is the foundation for a strong community.”