Whenever there is a problem within the Albemarle Town Public Housing Community, whether it is overgrown vegetation along buildings, fences that need repairing or a A chronic sewer problem affecting many families, Dr. Kim Scott wants to know about it so he can try to fix it.
As the so-called mayor of the public housing community of Albemarle, or a ‘city within a city’ as he calls it, Scott, who has served as the city’s director of public housing since January, is not not one to sit idly by when there are issues to be approached.
“I want it fixed because if it’s a safety and health issue, I can’t just sit at my desk and ignore it,” he said. “It’s just not who I am.”
As someone who has always been naturally curious, Scott, 56, said he always wanted to understand how “the machine works”.
“I want to know every aspect of the machine,” he said, “from oil to gas to pistons – everything.”
From a career in teaching to public housing
Originally from Albemarle, Scott grew up about four blocks from Amhurst Gardens and vividly remembers playing with friends who lived in the public housing community.
“It felt like home because I had family here, I had friends here, so whenever it was time to play, that’s where I came to play,” he said. declared.
After college, where Scott majored in elementary education, he returned to Albemarle and spent about four years working in public housing as a resident coordinator.
Wanting to experience social housing on a larger scale, Scott moved to Charlotte, where he served as HOPE VI’s Resident Services Coordinator. He was responsible for the development of family self-sufficiency programs and facility management in the First Ward, Dalton Village and Fair View Homes housing communities.
“My plan was to always come home, but I wanted to get that experience,” he said.
Scott then changed careers and for much of the next two decades spent time as a teacher and school administrator. He spent around 10 years at a county primary school in Scotland, where he worked with low-income Lumbee Indian pupils, before returning home, where he served as headmaster in both junior high and high school. Albemarle. He then moved on to other roles at charter and for-profit schools.
As an educator, he regularly worked with at-risk children, many of whom lived in social housing, which gave him a unique perspective that helped inform his vision for his current role.
“You have these social ills that come with poverty and student backwardness, so even as a teacher I thought it was important for agencies involved in the school, even in my class, to come forward and respond to the needs of students as well as their parents,” he said.
Some of the most lasting memories as an educator came during his time in County Scotland, one of the poorest parts of the state, when he said his parents invited him over with impatience at their house – just to show him that they had running water.
“I stand there thinking: I’m used to seeing faucets and faucets and they would literally come into the kitchen and turn on the water like ‘Look,'” he recalled. “It was so poor and I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked at the time because I think this is America.
Her teaching experience helped instill in her that even within the same community, people can often function at very different levels.
“It humbles me to understand that you can’t look at people and expect everyone to be on the same level,” he said, noting that there are so many “nuances” that can get people to argue.
It also taught him that he should meet people in their time of need and help them want to create a better life for themselves.
Scott returned to Albemarle from Florida in late 2021 to be closer to his six siblings. He was planning to continue his teaching career, but luckily he got a call from Garry Lewis, Albemarle’s acting director of social housing, asking him to consider applying for the full-time position. He was appointed as the new Director of Housing and took up his post in mid-January.
“As fate would have it, I believe I was designated at this point in my life to be here,” he said.
Tackling the sewage problem
As the so-called mayor of his new community — which consists of 200 apartments, including multi-family sites in Amhurst Gardens, along South Bell Avenue near the NC Highway 24-27 Bypass, and one-bedroom units senior and disabled room in Elizabeth Heights, near downtown — Scott quickly toured the facility and met the many residents.
He discovered several familiar faces dating back to his childhood, including John and JoAnne Branch, who have been residents of Amhurst Gardens since public housing began in the early 1970s. Scott was best friends with their son, Elbert, who was a former city policeman.
“They came here and when I came back here I knew exactly where they lived and went to see them first,” he said.
John Branch, 77, is optimistic that Scott will have a lasting impact in the community.
“It’s great to see him back because he’ll make a difference here,” Branch said, noting he’s seen several improvements already.
During his short time with the city, Scott, who meets with residents regularly, has worked to alleviate some of the longstanding issues. Wanting to reduce the speed of cars along South Bell Avenue, Scott developed ties with Police Chief Jason Bollhorst and the Albemarle Police Department as well as officials from the Sheriff’s Office, who cross the community several times per week.
The public housing department’s work over the past few months to improve the community appears to have had a noticeable impact, according to a recent HUD federal inspection, undertaken over three days in mid-June. The department received a score of 75 out of 100, “the highest it has been in 10 years,” Scott said.
“Dr. Scott is someone who is truly dedicated to service,” City Manager Michael Ferris said. “That dedication stood out during his work with the Department of Public Housing when I first met him. times nearly 30 years ago. Dr. Scott truly cares about improving the lives of those served by the Department of Public Housing. »
The biggest hurdle ahead of Scott is tackling the ongoing sewage issues caused by multiple collapsed pipes under many units – a problem that has persisted for many years and has become a health hazard to many residents. Scott first learned of it in mid-January.
Scott and his team are working with Stogner Architecture in Rockingham to determine the severity of the problem and hire contractors to renovate the properties. Albemarle Town Council approved a two-year contract with Stogner at their July 11 meeting. Since 1991, Stogner has worked on 18 public housing projects in the city, according to his website.
At least 22 units on South Bell Avenue as well as Inger and Grigg streets have been identified as having plumbing issues. The total represents about 25 to 30 families, or about 15% of Amhurst Gardens’ 150 units, Scott said.
“It was just troubling to me that this was something that’s been going on for several years and nobody addressed it,” he said.
Families living in the affected properties will be temporarily relocated to various vacant units. While things could change, depending on the severity of existing issues or additional damage discovered, Scott said he hopes the units will be fully refurbished in three to six months.
Empower its residents
During his tenure, Scott worked to help provide comprehensive services to many families, including health care, mental health services, youth development, child care and literacy programs.
He encourages residents to say that just because they live in social housing doesn’t mean they can’t succeed and can’t work to find a stable job or buy their own house. Despite the obstacles they’ve faced or might still face, Scott wants to instill in them that they too can have “a piece of the American dream.”
He compares part of his advocacy role to that of a cheerleader working to inspire the local crowd.
“It’s like going to a football game and the team you love loses,” he said. “But there are always the wonderful cheerleaders on the sidelines who will help you remember that you are really here because you love this team.
“As mayor of this city,” he said, extending the metaphor, “it’s my job to celebrate the people, to provide them with these agencies in our county that can help them pick themselves up and change of opinion, about whatever trauma happened to them or whatever their perception of the world outside of Amhurst.
Carole Cole, 63, who has lived at Amhurst Gardens since the 1990s, appreciates Scott’s dedication to its residents, noting that in her first six months on the job she gave it an A+.
“In the time he’s been here with us in the Amhurst area, there hasn’t been a day that I’ve called him and couldn’t reach him,” she said. “If there was anything I needed to do in the house, he would make sure it was done.”
As someone who knew Scott when he was growing up, she’s proud of the man he’s become — and all the work he’s done to help people like her.
“I don’t know what a male angel is called,” Cole said, “but he’s a genuine angel.”