San Jose finds interim head for critical department
Rosalynn Hughey speaks at the San Jose planning department’s annual Building Safety Month event on May 30, 2019. File photo.

    As San Jose works to fill the vacant director role of its housing department, a seasoned city leader with a history of smashing barriers will take over in the interim.

    Deputy City Manager Rosalynn Hughey will temporarily lead the housing department as San Jose conducts a nationwide search to fill the role permanently. In three weeks, current Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand is closing the door on her more than 15 years with the city.

    “I am excited to help the city manager through this leadership transition,” Hughey told San José Spotlight. “I am committed to supporting housing department staff, advancing existing priorities and initiatives and continuing our collaborative work with partner organizations and residents.”

    Morales-Ferrand said Hughey is a natural choice to fill the role. She has been with the city for more than eight years and previously worked in government for decades in the Washington, D.C. region. Before being promoted to deputy city manager in 2021, Hughey spent six years in the planning department, first as assistant director before moving into the director role. At the time, she was San Jose’s only Black administrator—trailblazing as a woman of color in a male-dominated department.

    “Planning and housing (departments) worked very closely together and I worked with her a lot,” Morales-Ferrand told San José Spotlight. “Her work represents the development side, which is critical for housing. She already knows the players from community members, developers and landlords.”

    Morales-Ferrand touted Hughey’s leadership skills, emphasizing that she’s watched her find compromises on contested issues. She said Hughey understands the inner workings of San Jose City Hall while also engaging residents for input.

    “The overwhelming majority (of our funding and work) is for moderate to extremely low-income people, so the department needs somebody who understands that experience, who is really doing everything they can to gauge a disenfranchised group,” Morales-Ferrand said.

    While in the city manager’s office, Hughey led the city’s recovery efforts during the pandemic by working with local nonprofits and organizations to distribute food, direct rental and small business assistance and COVID testing. She also focuses on a range of planning and development services, acting as the lead for the Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan, Climate Smart San Jose, the Diridon Station Area Plan and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Phase II.

    Before coming to San Jose, Hughey started her career as a development review planner in Maryland. In 2000, she took a position in Washington, D.C.’s office of planning and served under three mayors, going from neighborhood planner to deputy director.

    As a new D.C. mayor came in, Hughey decided it was time for a change and moved in 2014. Hughey previously told San José Spotlight she was drawn to the west coast to work in government—particularly San Jose’s plans to upgrade and expand BART.

    Morales-Ferrand said Hughey will likely serve for up to a year until a permanent housing director is hired. The city closes the application in August.

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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