The Press Register
A change of the guard is taking place at the Clarksdale Housing Authority as of July 1.
Royal Ann Spencer, who has worked for the Clarksdale Housing Authority for 43 years and been the executive director since 1985, is retiring. She has also been a secretary, worked in accounts payable, been an occupancy specialist and assistant director.
Benita Howard will succeed Spencer as the new executive director. Howard began working for the Clarksdale Housing Authority May 18 to train under Spencer for a little more than a month. She worked in the Mound Bayou public school system as a secretary for 17 years. She started working for the Mound Bayou Housing Authority in 2018 as the assistant director when the Mound Bayou and North Bolivar school systems consolidated.
Spencer, a 1976 Lee Academy graduate, attended the University of Southern Mississippi, but did not graduate.
“When I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and the position opened as secretary at Clarksdale Housing (Authority),” Spencer said. “I didn’t have a clue what Clarksdale Housing Authority was.”
Spencer said the director when she first started, Christine Mobley, had been in the position for more than 30 years. She said Mobley took her under her wing, treated her like a daughter and told her working for the Clarksdale Housing Authority would be a great career.
Spencer enjoyed working with the people.
“It’s been my only job,” she said. “It’s a humbling experience. It’s a pleasure to get up and come to work every day.”
For the most part, Spencer said residents have been good about following the rules, but one of the biggest hurdles was when the Housing of Urban Development instituted a non-smoking policy in public housing in 2018.
Residents must go on the street and leave the property to smoke. A resident who gets caught smoking in their unit is fined $100 the first time, $250 the second time and evicted the third time.
Residents are able to receive housing based on their income and pay anywhere from $50 to $582 in rent.
Howard, a 1983 John F. Kennedy High School, earned her AA degree in business administration from Kaplan University in 2009. She will continue to reside in Mound Bayou and is excited to be working in Clarksdale.
“I consider it an honor to come work for a housing authority as immaculate as this one,” Howard said.
Howard realizes the big responsibilities ahead of her.
“I see that I have some large shoes to fill,” Howard said. “Ms. Spencer, to me, is a person that goes above and beyond the call of duty. I’m going to do my best to maintain. I want to go above and beyond the call of duty because the things that she has done here, that was something that I wanted to take back to Mound Bayou and do the same thing. Maybe about a year ago, I came up here to visit her. I was just blown away when I first entered the Clarksdale Housing Authority how neat and nice it was.”
Spencer’s admiration for Howard was mutual.
“She reminded me a lot of myself really as far as how she wants to maintain things,” Spencer said. “She said right off the bat, ‘I don’t believe in changing anything as long as it’s working.’ We’re always open for change if it needs to (change). Everybody is asking, ‘How are you going to leave that? You’ve been there so long.’ I said, ‘I would not leave if I did not feel like it was in good, great, capable hands.’”
Spencer said when she decided to retire, someone with experience needed to take over because the occupancy part of the housing authority is a difficult process and that was Howard’s expertise in Mound Bayou.
The Clarksdale Housing Authority has five commissioners on the board consisting of chair Wayne Winter, vice chair Joe Howard, Roosevelt Howard, Kerry Lee and Daniel Miles.