Kathy McHugh, Housing Development Specialist
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
Based on my accent, most people would be surprised to know that I was born in Anaheim California. Since we moved when I was only 2 years old, my southern accent was well established while growing up in my father’s hometown (Sylacauga, Alabama), which is where I was raised. Just a little fun-fact about Sylacauga – it is also the hometown of Gomer Pyle (a.k.a. Jim Nabors), which might also help explain my accent.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
This is the area that my husband and I had selected to move to upon his retirement with the State of Alabama in 2011; however, I moved up in advance (January 2010) to take a job with the City of Charlottesville. I was very fortunate to be able to find a job and relocate here, even though the timing was a bit off. Regardless, I didn’t mind moving up a year in advance because this is where we wanted to be ultimately.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
I live in Crozet in the Wickham Pond neighborhood.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
My husband Jim and I have one daughter, Emily, who is a senior at WAHS. A cat (Tiger) and dog (Boo) act like our children, so we claim them as family too.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1987 with a B.A. in political science. I earned a Master of Public Administration from Auburn University at Montgomery in 1990.
What were you doing before you came to work for the City?
From 1993 until I moved to Charlottesville, I worked for Roth, McHugh & Associates, LLC. After the death of my business partner in 2006, I was the sole owner of this business which focused on development of federal grant applications; grant administration; and planning related to economic / community development and housing projects for multiple municipal, county, and public housing authority clients within the State of Alabama. I sold the business at the end of 2009 prior to moving here.
Your job title is Housing Development Specialist – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
My position requires me to provide leadership and direction for the City’s housing programs, with an emphasis on working to help create and preserve affordable housing opportunities through private and non-profit partners. I also manage the City of Charlottesville Housing Fund, which provides financial assistance for various housing related projects that would not likely happen otherwise.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part of my job is seeing the positive outcomes that come from the types of projects that we are able to help facilitate. Shelter is a basic universal need and being involved in the provision of affordable housing for low wealth persons can be extremely satisfying on an individual level.
The most difficult part of my job is knowing that there is always more housing need than there are dollars to go around and it is never possible to help everyone. The variation of need can run the gamut from homeless individuals, to an elderly person trying to maintain an older home, to a family struggling to afford to buy their first home and each of these challenges requires a different level of assistance and approach.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Because I deal primarily with organizations/agencies rather than individuals, the average person is not directly impacted by my job; however, there are low income beneficiaries to all city-supported housing efforts and for these persons it is my hope that their lives are positively impacted by what I do.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the City?
Having run my own business for so long, where I worked under contract with local governments, the move to working for a unit of local government has proven to be an interesting learning experience. I have developed a real sense of respect and appreciation for what goes on within City Hall and the challenges of having to directly answer to the public. I work with a great group of people, each dedicated and committed to what they do, and they have made the transition fairly smooth for me.
What is a little-known fact about you?
Growing up, my father loved to buy and tinker with machines (mostly cars), but when I was about twelve he bought a motorcycle from Sears Roebuck and Company. He cranked it up and rode it around the block a couple of times and then promptly parked it in the garage. It just sat there, collecting dust for a couple of years, but I became totally fascinated with the idea of riding it. At that time, you could get a motorcycle license at age 14 in Alabama, so I took the test and received my license the same week as my 14th birthday. I talked my dad into letting me “borrow” the bike to learn to ride it and the next thing you know, I was totally hooked. My enthusiasm for riding was contagious because soon my dad, younger sister, and younger brother were all riding too. We never bought another Sears motorcycle, but at any one time, we usually owned half a dozen or so different models and we loved to go out riding together. I gave up riding long ago, but the lure of a shiny new motorcycle still has its appeal!
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I love to spend time with my family exploring and getting to know more about Virginia. There are so many interesting small towns within a short drive from here that I’ve yet to grow bored just learning about places in my new home state. Also, while my husband would definitely need convincing, maybe I could take up motorcycle riding once again.