Hatcher Downstreet

Karen Hatcher

BARRE — Trustees of Downstreet Housing and Community Development are moving swiftly to fill an administrative vacancy created by last week’s abrupt departure of former chief executive officer Karen Hatcher.

The national search that led to Hatcher’s mid-August hiring lasted longer than her tenure at the helm of a nonprofit that specializes in affordable housing. Hatcher finished her work at Downstreet last Thursday.

‘Why?’ isn’t a question Dan Barlow, chair of the Downstreet’s board, was prepared to answer Tuesday.

“It’s a personnel issue, and we have no comment,” he said, noting the board had scheduled a special meeting later that night to discuss both short- and long-term plans to fill the vacancy.

Barlow predicted news on the short-term plan could come as soon as Monday.

“We will have an announcement early next week about a new interim director,” he said, suggesting the board is close to finalizing an arrangement with a candidate he said would be able to hit the ground running.

“It’s someone who ... knows the business, knows the environment, knows all the players in the housing world and can really step in and make sure Downstreet is still doing the work Downstreet needs to do,” he said.

Following the planned departure of long-time Executive Director Eileen Peltier in April, Julie Curtin, then the organization’s chief operating officer, served as interim director while the board conducted the consultant-led search that resulted in Hatcher’s hiring. Curtin has since left Downstreet and last month took over as director of homeownership for the Champlain Housing Trust.

Barlow, who is helping out in the office, said the board wants to assure those who rely on Downstreet for housing, as well as its “funders, partners and allies” that there is no cause for concern.

“We are moving very quickly to make sure there is a strong and stable leader at Downstreet in the interim, while we re-launch our search,” he said.

While the Downstreet board leaned heavily on a consultant during the months-long search that concluded when Hatcher was hired, Barlow said trustees were committed to staff playing a bigger role in the process this time around.

“We really want them to have input,” he said.

Though no firm timetable has been set, Barlow said his hope is the position will be filled by next April.

March is the tentative target and as soon as the board makes the interim appointment, it can focus on finding a permanent replacement for Hatcher.

Attempts to reach Hatcher for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.

A New Jersey native, who had worked most recently as community and economic development coordinator in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Hatcher came to Downstreet with more than 20 years experience working with nonprofits.

One of roughly 10 applicants short-listed by the consultant, Hatcher was one of several semi-finalists virtually interviewed by a transition committee that included current and former members of the Downstreet board, as well as one of its employees. She separated herself from that smaller pack and emerged from a field of three finalists who sat for in-person interviews.

At the time of her hiring, board members were excited about Hatcher taking over as chief executive officer, and she said the feeling was mutual.

It isn’t clear what changed. Hatcher had recently moved to Plainfield.

What is clear is, her office is now empty and a board that began the year readying for an administrative search it knew was coming will end it launching one it didn’t expect.

david.delcore @timesargus.com

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