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The Grand Apartments in Roseburg on Wednesday.

The top two executives at NeighborWorks Umpqua have abruptly parted ways with the agency and a national search firm has been enlisted to find their replacements.

CEO Merten Bangemann-Johnson and chief operating officer Trisha Ingalls are both gone. Bangemann-Johnson had been CEO for just under six years. Ingalls joined NeighborWorks Umpqua in 2018 as director of operations. She was promoted to COO after nine months, and had been with the agency just under three years, agency officials said.

Their departure was announced in an email consisting of three short paragraphs that NeighborWorks Umpqua sent out Friday. The brief note did not mention Bangemann-Johnson or Ingalls by name.

It said in part: “No success is without its challenges. The NeighborWorks Umpqua board is taking the organization in a new direction with the departure of their Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operations Officer. Through careful and considered action, the NeighborWorks Umpqua Board has engaged strong interim leadership to guide the staff and the organization through this transition and to continue to work throughout these challenging times.”

“We are grateful to be a part of the continued health and growth of the southern Oregon community, and we deeply appreciate the continued support of our mission,” said Randall Mason, board chair for NeighborWorks Umpqua, in the email.

NeighborWorks Umpqua named John Fowler as its interim CEO. Fowler said he had just retired on Dec. 31 as CEO of a nonprofit agency in San Luis Obisbo, California, called People’s Self-Help Housing. He had been there 10 years.

NeighborWorks Umpqua and People’s Self-Help Housing are both affiliates of an organization called NeighborWorks America, Fowler said, and through the years he got to know people at NeighborWorks Umpqua and vice versa.

Fowler said he is also a consultant, and in October, Bangemann-Johnson asked him to take a look at NeighborWorks Umpqua’s operations.

“Merten brought me into the organization. He was struggling on some financial matters,” Fowler said. “I’m a CPA by profession. He thought I could come in and look under the hood, and I did.”

Fowler said he could not discuss details of the departure of Bangemann-Johnson and Ingalls because it involved personnel issues. NeighborWorks Umpqua has hired a recruiting firm on the East Coast to do a national search for both a chief executive officer and a chief financial officer, Fowler said. Whether the agency will also hire a chief operating officer remains to be seen, he said. The recruiting firm had already been enlisted to look for a chief financial officer and that search is nearing its conclusion, Fowler said. The agency has been without a CFO since last May, he said.

“That process for a CFO has been ongoing and we’ve got some good candidates, and I’m hoping to get someone on board pretty quick.,” he said. The search for a CEO is expected to take about three months, Fowler said.

“I’d like to have it sooner so I can go back to retirement,” he said.

LOCAL PROJECTSFowler said CEOs come and go “all the time,” but acknowledged that what makes this situation a little different is the top two executives are leaving at the same time. He said that is likely because Bangemann-Johnson had worked with Ingalls prior to taking over as CEO and brought her to the agency.

“It was a decision by the board that the direction that the CEO and COO were going was not a direction shared by the board,” Fowler said. “So there was a parting of the ways and a new direction for the board.”

NeighborWorks Umpqua was established in 1991 as the Umpqua Community Development Corp. The organization’s primary mission was to develop affordable housing in Douglas County. In 1999, the agency added community-based economic development to its mission and expanded its service area to include all of rural Oregon. The agency currently serves residents of Douglas, Coos, Curry, Jackson and Josephine counties.

NeighborWorks Umpqua is overseeing several affordable housing developments in Roseburg.

Deer Creek Village, located at 2843 SE Douglas Ave., is scheduled for completion this spring, and applications are already being accepted. The complex consists of 68 units, ranging from studio to one and two-bedroom units. It will provide housing to veterans, individuals, and small families making less than 60% of the area median income, or about $33,000 per year. Rents range from $305 to $795, depending on unit size and household income. Umpqua Community Property Management will manage the property.

NeighborWorks Umpqua is also renovating a former hotel in downtown Roseburg that at one point had sat vacant for more than four decades. The work at the Grand Apartments, 730 S.E. Cass Ave., is expected to improve the building’s accessibility and energy efficiency, enhance common areas, modernize units and preserve the historic features of the exterior.

NeighborWorks Umpqua has owned the property since 2003. In addition to the building renovations, the agency will integrate 12 units of supportive housing into the property for people who are unhoused.

NeighborWorks Umpqua got $4.1 million in low-cost loans and grants from Oregon Housing and Community Services to address affordable housing needs in Douglas and Coos counties. In Roseburg, the nonprofit is using $1.6 million of the funds towards the renovation of the Grand Apartments.

In Coquille, NeighborWorks Umpqua is using $2.5 million of the funds towards the renovation and preservation of Hillside Terrace Apartments, a 39-unit multifamily property that provides affordable housing for lower-income seniors, working families, and individuals with disabilities.

NeighborWorks Umpqua has more than $52 million in total assets, according to its tax returns for 2018, the most recent year available.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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