ATLANTA -- The Tennessee Housing Development Agency ended its six-month search for an executive director by naming to the post Alton E. Brown, formerly a senior loan manager with Fidelity Federal Bank in Nashville.

Mr. Brown was chosen last Thursday by unanimous vote of the agency's 18-member board of directors and comes to the housing unit following the April dismissal of former executive director Thomas P. Lawrence 2d. Mr. Brown, the fifth executive director of the agency since its creation by Tennessee's General Assembly in 1978, will begin his new job next week.

"Mr. Brown has the confidence of the board," said James E. Cain 3d, board chairman. "We feel the search committee has brought us the finest candidate to lead Tennessee Housing into its new challenges and to continue our existing programs."

In its report on Mr. Brown, the board's search committee cited the banker's leadership skills and experience in managing a large staff, according to Rebecca Garland, the agency's general counsel.

Mr. Brown had been with Fidelity Federal since 1975 and served as a senior vice president and manager of loan servicing during the past two years. Between 1986 and 1989, he was a senir vice president of branch administration at the bank, overseeing 118 employees at 17 retail branch offices. Earlier, he was a project manager with Brewer Enterprises in Nashville, coordinating the development and management of a condominium project.

Like his predecessor, the new executive director will oversee a staff of 70. In addition to selling tax-exempt debt to provide mortgage loans to first-time buyers, the agency administers such federal programs as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Section 8 Rental Assistance.

Mr. Lawrence was fired following months of deepening conflict with Mr. Cain, sources in state government said at the time. They said Mr. Cain, who was appointed board chairman in 1988, had sought to be more active than his predecessors and began to clash with Mr. Lawrence, who had joined the agency in 1976 and been its executive director since 1984.

In particular, sources said Mr. Cain felt Mr. Lawrence had not shown sufficient support for two legislative initiatives to expand the agency's powers. One bill sought to give the agency the power to buy and hold property, while the other sought to make permanent a pilot program that would allow it to use a portion of state real estate taxes for rehabilitation and construction projects.

The agency's next bond issue, which probably will be sold before the end of the year, could total about $100 million, evenly split between new-money and current refunding bonds, Ms. Garland said.

The agency sold $227 million of mortgage revenue bonds in 1990 and $169.7 million in 1989.

With the hiring of Mr. Brown, Ralph Massey Jr., who had been acting executive director, will return to his duties as deputy director, said Ms. Garland.

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