The new year will usher in change at Community Link, a nonprofit organization focused on helping families and individuals find and keep affordable housing in Charlotte and 21 other North Carolina counties.
On Jan.1, Tameka Gunn, the organization’s vice president and chief operating officer, will be elevated to CEO following the retirement of longtime leader Floyd Davis.
Gunn says she is ready for the bigger role.
In addition to building on the work Davis has done, she wants to test and implement some new ideas.
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Gunn holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Old Dominion University and a master’s degree in public education from Strayer University.
The answers below are edited for brevity and clarity.
What will a normal day look like in your new role?
My day-to-day will change to be more focused on the agency’s sustainability. I will be cultivating relationships with potential donors to continue to help support the agency, looking for other ways to continue to provide our services and to continue to partner with others doing similar work in the communities and the different continuum of care that we currently are involved in.
How did you prepare for stepping into the CEO role?
I prepared throughout my tenure at Community link by attending our committee meetings. So we have different committees with the government throughout our agency: finance, marketing, and developing committees.
So, it started with becoming more involved in those committees and the board meetings. I met the board members and learned more about them and why they wanted to be a part of the agency.
In 2016, as I was looking at my future here with the agency, I obtained my Master’s in Public Administration to gain more insight into the public service work that we do.
How do you plan to build on the work that Floyd Davis has already done?
One of the things that I look forward to is continuing to work with True Homes. They are helping us provide more affordable housing to first-time homebuyers. I also want to expand our awareness to other counties.
We provide services in 16 counties in the state, but the counties that are further north, like Franklin and Halifax, are not that familiar with what Community Link does and how they can actually help the cause and be a part of our mission.
So, one of the things I plan to do is to help to stretch our hand into those communities a little more. Not just with the services but also with cultivating relationships in those counties and within those areas so that people in those counties can be a part of Community Link as a whole.
That’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to, building on the work Floyd has done by getting us into those counties. I want to bring more awareness around what we do in those counties.
How do you plan to raise awareness in those areas?
Hopefully, [the counties] will start doing more in-person meetings in January. Being physically present at those meetings and meeting with key players and stakeholders within the continuum of care is very important.
What parts of the CEO position are new to you?
Being a part of sponsorships, donor relations, and fundraising is something that I have not been a part of before. Those are some new things that I will be learning. I will be getting more involved with communities, with other executive directors and CEOs within the same field and just kind of working with them on ending homelessness within Charlotte-Mecklenburg as well as the other continuum of care that we are a part of.
What specific projects are you most excited about?
I think the most exciting is building our relationship with True Homes. True Homes helps us get veteran first-time homebuyers into housing. I am excited about seeing how we can continue that trend. Not just here in Mecklenburg but seeing if there are other opportunities for us to get first-time homebuyer veterans into their own homes.
I’m also excited to participate in Charlotte’s 2040 UDO plans. We’re looking to pilot more homes with auxiliary dwelling units on the back. So again, this is another new kind of project that we’re working on.
So, I’m also excited about that as well, because it will also provide the homeowners with some income. It also provides the opportunity to have affordable rental units.
What new things will you be doing as CEO?
One of the new things that we’ll be looking to try is our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. That is a passion of mine that I’ve had since I’ve been with the agency.
I would love to see what more we could do with that program and how we can expand it into some of the other counties where we provide service, whether virtual or having more partners in other counties where individuals and families can benefit from having their taxes prepared for free.
There may be a young professional or someone right out of high school that had a job, and although they are claimed on their parents’ return, they may have had a summer job. Teaching them how to do taxes themselves is something that I’ve always wanted to try. Education is something that I’m very passionate about as a former teacher.
I want to educate more people about homeownership and preparing their taxes because that goes along with our asset building.
What are you most proud of?
That’s kind of a tough one. I spent most of my time at Community Link working with our “Homeless to Housing” programs. I’m very proud of that work and how we have been able to help thousands of individuals who were literally homeless or at risk of being homeless be able to move into a sustainable rental property.
I’m also excited about the work we’ve done on our asset-building side of actually moving people into homeownership so they can start building wealth.
I think that is what I like most about working for Community Link; we are providing people with the tools, resources, and education to start building wealth at whatever level because everyone’s level will be different. I just really love that we look at that and are doing the work to help people gain wealth and assets.
What’s the biggest thing you learned from Floyd Davis?
One of the biggest things is cultivating relationships and how that is very important for the sustainability of our agency.
With him being in the role for over 20 years, he’s been able to help me prioritize who we’re reaching.
We want to ensure that you’re not just sending an email and that we pick up the phone, make meaningful connections, cultivate relationships and look at the bigger picture about what is best for the agency. One of the things he’s said is, not all grants are the right grants.
He’s really helped me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture for the agency as a whole. In my prior roles, I’ve only just been looking at what will be good for this segment of the agency or this program. Now, it’s about that bigger picture.