Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC Welcomes Walter Phinney to Agency

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 @ 01:50 PM


The next few years at HAC will see significant changes in leadership as longtime, dedicated staff step down, paving the way for new faces to make their mark on the agency.

Those changes started in earnest last month when HAC welcomed Walter Phinney to its ranks as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). Phinney, who lives in South Dennis, replaces Michael Sweeney, who will retire in October after 35 years at HAC.

On his first official day, Phinney was treated to a brunch where CEO Rick Presbrey introduced him to his colleagues. “I think he’ll bring a lot to the organization,” Presbrey said, before delving into his work experience.

Phinney most recently served as COO at Arbour Counseling Services which runs mental health and addiction centers throughout Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was COO at Outer Cape Health Services in Wellfleet, where he was responsible for clinical operations, including behavioral health.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College and a master’s degree in health care administration from New England College.

As much of his recent work has been focused off-Cape, Phinney expressed an excitement that he would be able to make a difference here. “Rick mentioned that I was driving all over so I’m looking forward to making an impact in my community as opposed to Worcester and Lawrence and Haverhill and Lowell and Medford,” Phinney said. “There is something nice about knowing you’re affecting the people who are your neighbors.” 

Tags: HAC, Walter Phinney, succession planning

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: Embarking on a New Era

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Wed, May 18, 2016 @ 10:02 AM


A couple of months ago we began the search for a new Chief Operating Officer (COO). Our very capable COO Michael Sweeney will be retiring in the fall, unless I can talk him into staying longer. We advertised in thirteen places with social media being eleven of the thirteen. Our expensive ad in the Boston Globe produced nothing while social media brought us a pool of incredibly talented people. The abundance of talent, much of it local, surprised me and made me feel pretty good that so many people are interested in working at HAC.

The COO position, in simplest terms, supervises all the division directors except finance leaving the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), me, to concentrate on internal and external policy issues, external relations, Board relations, raising money and developing new programs. We don’t do it exactly that way now, but we will when the retirements of our three most senior people take place.

For me the process is scary because the future of the agency, which I founded more than 40 years ago, depends on our making good choices. The core qualities that I look for in employees are integrity, commitment, and intelligence. In considering each candidate we try to determine their strengths in these three areas and are less concerned about their specific experience in the job for which they are applying. I believe that if a candidate possesses these three qualities they will figure out how to get the job done well, since this is a management job not a technical one. Of course there are other attributes we look for as well, such as confidence, writing and speaking skills, sense of humor, compassion, and so forth.

Another surprise is that we are finding people who seem to fit other positions within the agency as well. An unexpected hard part is choosing the top candidate among several who could do the job well. Throughout the process of looking for a COO, the fit within the agency, the compatibility with me, and the compatibility with an as-yet-unknown new CEO have all been concerns.

After filling the COO position, the search for a new CEO will begin. On all of our minds is the fact that 80% of the time after a founder leaves, the selection of a new CEO doesn’t work out well. We are doing all we can to make sure we end up in the successful 20% where the transition works out well.

Tags: HAC, Rick Presbrey, succession planning