Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott, a former federal prosecutor and head of the governor’s inspector general’s office, has been appointed chairwoman of the Chicago Housing Authority board, the mayor’s office said Tuesday.
Scott, most recently a private attorney specializing in white-collar criminal work, replaces James Reynolds, who last week was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the board of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.
Along with the CHA’s new CEO, Charles Woodyard, Scott will try to steer the agency amid a struggling economy that has undermined its $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation, an effort to create vibrant mixed-income housing developments where crime-ridden high-rises once stood.
“The Chicago Housing Authority’s board will play a crucial role in completing the Plan for Transformation and tackling the important challenges facing Chicagoans with affordable housing needs,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Z Scott has the track record of innovation as well as the experience needed to deftly lead this board.”
Scott brings to the CHA post years of public agency management experience, as well as a formidable record as an assistant U.S. attorney. That included prosecuting former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Richard Sarallo in a bribery case that led to his guilty plea to income tax evasion in 1994.
She was head of the governor’s inspector general’s office from 2003 to 2005.
But Scott acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that her experience in dealing with often complex housing market issues is limited. Scott was first appointed to the CHA’s board in July.
“There is a learning curve,” she said. “It’s new. The issues are new, which is why I think it’s important to me to take the time to become familiar with the challenges and the issues and the concerns.”
“I think that given that all public entities are faced with a terrific amount of work to do with limited resources, we really have to take a hard look at what we have to do,” she said.
Robert Whitfield, an attorney who represents CHA tenants and who has been critical of the agency, said he was encouraged by Scott’s law enforcement background. There has been some upheaval in CHA leadership in recent years, including the resignation of former CEO Lewis Jordan last summer amid questions over his use of an agency credit card.
Those who deal with the agency look forward to moving on, Whitfield said.
“We’re all taking the attitude of let’s wait and see what the new regime will bring,” he said.
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