Portland Housing Authority Deputy Director Cheryl Sessions will replace Mark Adelson as executive director in mid-November. Adelson is retiring after 15 years with the housing authority. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The Portland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners didn’t have to look very far to find the right candidate to replace outgoing executive director Mark Adelson. She was sitting in the next office over.

Earlier this month, the board voted to offer Deputy Director Cheryl Sessions the post that Adelson has held for close to the last decade. As deputy, Sessions had been focused on working with Portland Housing Authority’s development team to reposition ownership and financing of its public housing inventory.

“We look forward to Cheryl’s leadership for many years to come as the agency undertakes this important transition of our properties and continue to serve Portland’s affordable housing needs,” Portland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chairperson Mariar Balow said in a press release announcing the Sessions’ new role.

Sessions said making the transition is a natural progression. Before joining Portland Housing Authority in October 2017, she worked for four years in a similar capacity at the Lewiston Housing Authority and has experience as a finance and business attorney and real estate broker.

“I have fully embraced the vision Mark and the board has had. I don’t see any major revision or turnarounds. For me, it is about making that (vision) happen,” said Sessions, whose first day as executive director will be Nov. 15.

That vision for increasing public housing in the city was laid out in the organization’s 2015 strategic plan, which Sessions said will be reviewed and updated. The plan said it may be possible to add 650 units in Bayside between Greenleaf Street and Franklin Towers;  25 units at Washington Gardens, off Washington Avenue; up to 70 units at Sagamore Village, off Brighton Avenue in Nason’s Corner;  60 units at Riverton Park, off Forest Avenue; and 25 at Harbor Terrace on Danforth Street.

The plan and additional initiatives by Portland Housing Authority will play a role in helping the city meet its goal of adding 2,257 affordable housing units by 2027.

“There is a need to expand affordable housing in the city and we think PHA can play an important role in that,” Sessions said.

Sessions said another major focus under her tenure will be to continue rehabilitating, refinancing and making energy improvements and necessary repairs at existing properties, including 155 Anderson St., Washington Gardens, Harbor Terrace and Riverton Park. The goal, she said, is to make sure those properties, some of which have been around for nearly 50 years, can last another 50 years.

The housing authority serves more than 6,200 residents through its management of 1,226 affordable apartments in the city and its administration of 1,975 subsidized rental vouchers.

Adelson began working at Portland Housing Authority in 2004 as deputy director. He has been executive director since 2010.

He said he has enjoyed his 45 years in community housing development and has no immediate plans for retirement.

“To be able to do it all in the state of Maine, with the majority of it in Portland, has been amazing for me because I love Maine and I love Portland. It has been a highlight for me,” Adelson said.

Over the last five years, Adelson said there has been a concerted focus on not just maintaining the property Portland Housing Authority has, but expanding its offering as well. More than 100 units have been added in that time, with more in the works.

“Everybody now understands the importance of affordable housing to the city. That wasn’t the case early on, but that has changed over the last 20 years through the hard work of the City Council, (Portland Housing Authority) Board of Commissioners and developers in the city,” he said.

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