NeighborWorks Umpqua conducted a national search and interview process to find a new chief executive officer, before choosing someone who was already working for the nonprofit agency.

The agency announced Tuesday that it had selected Erica Mills as its new CEO. Mills is a Douglas County resident who had been serving as a program area director for NeighborWorks Umpqua. With the hire, interim CEO Betty Tamm will return to retirement.

“Erica rose to the top after a nationwide search, but as an internal candidate, she knows NWU’s programs, projects and obligations,” Tamm said in a news release. “She has excellent leadership skills and understands the staff strengths. She is already affecting the culture of the company in a positive way and her connections in the community will help build trust.”

Mills has over 20 years of experience managing operations for regional mortgage companies in Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota, according to NeighborWorks Umpqua. She has also owned and operated a small lending business. Mills earned a Bachelor of Science in health promotion and education with an emphasis in gerontology from Oregon State University. She joined NeighborWorks Umpqua in early 2019 as homeownership center director and advanced in 2020 to director of community lending.

In 2019, Mills was elected to the Umpqua Community College Board of Education and was re-elected in 2021.

“I am thrilled to take on this role, with an organization I truly believe in. We empower residents in our communities to access safe, healthy, affordable housing and to achieve financial resiliency,” Mills said in the release. “These two ambitions are the bedrock to building strong, vibrant communities where people and families thrive. I am inspired by the dedication and caring of our incredible team of employees and volunteers, as they help clients work toward these goals.”

Randall Mason, NeighborWorks Umpqua’s board chair, said the decision to select Mills was unanimous.

“We couldn’t be more excited for this appointment, and we know she will lead our company to excellence,” he said.

NeighborWorks Umpqua was established 30 years ago under the name Umpqua Community Development Corp., and provides low-cost housing and social services to residents in Douglas, Coos, Curry, Jackson and Josephine counties.

Mills will have some substantial challenges in taking over the top spot at NeighborWorks Umpqua.

The agency has been struggling financially for the past few years. A review of its tax returns showed that the agency spent more money than it received in every year but one between 2015 and 2019.

Between 2016 and 2019, NeighborWorks ran up deficits of $3.5 million, including a net loss of $1.8 million in 2019 alone.

NeighborWorks Umpqua also had a shakeup in leadership in February, when the agency lost its CEO and chief operating officer on the same day. The agency hired a new chief financial officer in April.

In May, the agency announced plans for perhaps its most ambitious project to date. NeighborWorks Umpqua is seeking permission to build a six-story apartment complex, with retail space shops on the bottom floor and as many as 70 units above on about 3/4 of an acre it owns at 911 SE Lane St.

The Roseburg City Council has approved the zoning change needed to allow the project to move forward, and it is winding its way through the permitting process.

NeighborWorks Umpqua already owns a sprinkling of other properties in downtown Roseburg, including the 52-unit Kohlhagen Apartments, which is adjacent to where the new apartment complex would go; the 37-unit Grand Apartments at 730 SE Cass Ave., which the agency got a state grant to refurbish; and the 40-unit Rose Apartments at 805 SE Stephens St., which provides housing for elderly and disabled residents.

In June, the agency welcomed tenants into its new 68-unit apartment complex, Deer Creek Village, located at 2843 NE Douglas Ave., east of downtown Roseburg. The complex consists of 18 one-bedroom units, 41 two-bedroom units, and nine three-bedroom units, and provides low-income housing and gives preference to veterans.

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

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