Ed Jennings Jr. appointed HUD director for Southeast


Published: Friday, January 29, 2010 at 9:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 at 9:42 p.m.

Gainesville developer and former state representative Ed Jennings Jr. was named Friday as regional director over eight states for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A HUD press release issued Friday afternoon said Jennings will oversee HUD operations in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Jennings could not be reached by The Sun Friday.

“I am humbled and honored to serve this historic administration. President Obama and (HUD) Secretary (Shaun) Donovan have a unique understanding of the role of home ownership and the development of quality affordable housing to the recovery of our national economy,” Jennings said in the HUD release. “I plan to use my years of private sector and public policy experience to assist them in making the housing industry a cornerstone of the American job recovery and long term economic stability of our nation.”

Jennings' mentor and godmother, Alachua County Commission Chairwoman Cynthia Chestnut, said she was proud of Jennings personally and added that his appointment could pay dividends for Gainesville and Alachua County housing programs.

"I am ecstatic," Chestnut said. "I think it is going to help the state of Florida, but it will really help Alachua County. It is a real coup for our community. I think this is the highest-level Obama administration appointment for our area.

"It has the potential to help with Kennedy Homes and with any other housing developments we want to move and work on in a different manner," Chestnut continued.

Kennedy Homes was a housing development on Southeast Eighth Avenue near 15th Street that fell into disrepair before a section of it was destroyed by fire in October 2003. The rest was later razed, and the city of Gainesville hopes to spark a new development there.

Jennings was a state representative from 2000-2006, working to expand access to health care, employment and transportation, and he was a staunch affordable housing advocate to underserved communities, the release stated.

He is founder of Jennings Development Group Inc., which has built several affordable housing complexes in Gainesville.

In 2006, Jennings lost a state Senate campaign to Sen. Steve Oelrich in a race marked by contentious advertising, primarily from independent groups.

An issue in the campaign involved Jennings' taxes -- he was delinquent in paying property taxes for several years but they were since paid at the time of the election.

Jennings will serve as HUD’s liaison to mayors, city managers, elected representatives, state and local officials, congressional delegations, private and non-profit developers and customers. He will oversee the delivery of HUD programs and services to communities and evaluate their efficiency and effectiveness. Jennings is one of 10 regional directors in the United States.

Donovan said Jennings' experience make him ideal for the HUD post.

“Today, we need to have people on our senior management team who have the experience to get the job done and I have no doubt, Ed Jennings is just such a person,” Donovan said. “The eight states that make up our Southeast Region will benefit enormously from his experience and I’m proud he’s answered the call to serve.”

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