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KCRHA interim CEO withdraws candidacy due to too many ‘cooks in the kitchen’

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(The Center Square) – The interim CEO for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority has withdrawn his name from a list of candidates for the permanent CEO position, citing a need for structural change within the agency.

Darrell Powell informed KCRHA of his decision to withdraw from the interview process in a May 16 letter. Powell took over as interim CEO in February after Helen Howell held the interim position for nine months.

KCRHA has not had a permanent CEO since Marc Dones stepped down from the position in May 2023 due to burnout.

Powell said he is withdrawing his candidacy because he does not believe the KCRHA is in a position to make strides in helping homeless people in King County. He added that “significant governance changes and personnel changes” would be needed to achieve that agency’s potential.

The agency has three separate boards that have oversight authority: the governing committee, the implementation board, and the Seattle King County Continuum of Care Board, which is in charge of applying for federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for homelessness assistance.

The Center Square previously reported on some elected officials’ concerns about KCRHA, including Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson flagging the agency’s committees being made up of non-elected people tasked with making the agency’s budget.

Fellow Seattle City Councilmember Rob Saka also described the agency’s structure as “somewhat confusing and clunky” earlier this year.

In Powell’s letter, he noted that the KCRHA’s three dozen-some members across three committees causes competing approaches and adversarial philosophies. Powell mentioned some of the comments he has heard, including that he has “just ‘months’ to prove that KCRHA can work,” and that the fundamental problem with KCRHA is its three committee structure.

“In short, there seems to be an abundance of cooks in the kitchen without a clear consensus on vision and mission,” Powell said in the letter to KCRHA.

Jeff Simms, senior director for policy at the KCRHA, previously told The Center Square that the agency was created by a legislative agreement between the City of Seattle and King County and does not have control of how it was created. Simms added that representatives from Seattle, King County, and other stakeholders have been conveyed to look at how to simplify the agency’s structure.

On Monday, KCRHA told The Center Square that elected officials have publicly expressed a desire to combine the governing committee and implementation board. The agency confirmed that the process of how to do so is underway.

“I am aware that the City of Seattle and King County are working to address this issue but based on my personal experience in this role and through the interview process, the current environment will make it extremely difficult for any CEO to excel,” Powell said.

“We respect Darrell Powell’s decision to withdraw from the permanent CEO search process,” KCRHA said in an email.

Last week, KCRHA released its bi-annual Point-In-Time count, which tallied 16,385 homeless people living through King County, the highest count recorded by the county. The 16,385 unhoused people counted is a 22.6% increase from the last point-in-time count conducted by the county in 2022, which found 13,368 homeless people in King County.

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