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Seattle Housing Authority is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners, two of whom are SHA residents. The Mayor of Seattle appoints board members, subject to confirmation by the Seattle City Council. Commissioners are responsible for approving the agency's annual budget, setting policy and appointing and overseeing the Executive Director.

Board of Commissioners

Deborah Canavan Thiele is a Senior Program Manager for a national organization that works to improve opportunities for the homeless and other vulnerable families through supportive housing. She has held previous positions in multi-family lending at the Seattle Office of Housing, and in homeless housing initiatives at the King County Housing Authority.

Commissioner Thiele holds a degree in communications and professional writing. She is an accomplished public speaker and trainer for multiple government and nonprofit organizations.

Emily Abbey
Emily Abbey

Commissioner Abbey says that she feels honored to be one of two Commissioners appointed to represent resident interests, issues and goals while working in support of the SHA mission.  She has been active in the Joint Policy Advisory Committee representing residents and serving as co-chair for four years.

Ms. Abbey’s varied career included working as an editor/writer as well as administering employee development programs and energy program grants.  She has worked for the federal government, a government contractor, private industry, and a social services agency.

Ms. Abbey has spent much of her adult life learning about human nature through therapy, workshops, and working as a mental health counselor -- all of which she says help her see and respect various points of view and facilitate reaching consensus.  She notes she has learned how to step back from "group think" and alert others to issues not being fully addressed or respected.

Ahmed Abdi currently works as an Outreach Manager at Fair Work Center, where he conducts "Train the Trainer" & "Know Your Rights" workshops for community partner organizations around King County. He also helps coordinate the Fair Work Collaborative, a coalition of 10 organizations committed to collaborate and educate workers on labor standards. He has seven years of experience in community, political, union, business and coalition organizing. He has worked at SEIU775, Working Washington, Jewish Vocational Service and Crest Services. He has also served on the boards of African Diaspora of Washington, and the Somali American Public Advocacy Committee. Commissioner Abdi speaks Swahili and Somali.

Robert Crutchfield is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Washington, where he served as department chair for eight years. He also directed the UW Graduate School’s Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program. His research and teaching focused on criminology, and a number of his studies were of Seattle neighborhoods. In 2014, his book Get a Job:  Labor Markets, Economic Opportunity, and Crime was published by New York University Press.  In the book, he analyzed how employment disadvantage and economic inequality lead to individual crime and delinquency, and neighborhood crime rates. He earned a B.A. from Thiel College in Greenville PA and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Paula L. Houston is the CEO of Sound Generations in Seattle, prior to that she was the Executive Director for the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA. She has broad experience in public health and community health administration and owned her own fitness and wellness center.

Commissioner Houston is a member of Seattle Rotary #4, where she has held an officer position, sits on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association and is a member of the Seattle Art Museum’s Education and Community Engagement Committee. She has also been a member of numerous other non-profit boards and served two terms on the Seattle Women’s Commission.

She has a B.S. from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in Health Administration from the University of Washington and earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Seattle University in 2014.

Paul Purcell was the President and founder of Beacon Development Group where he oversaw the development of nearly 5,000 affordable housing units. He served as Chair of the Washington State Governor’s Housing Advisory Board, the Governor’s Task Force on Financing Senior Housing, the Joint Committee on Farm Worker Housing and the Policy Advisory Team for Housing. Prior to founding Beacon, Purcell oversaw housing development for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. He holds a B.A. from Western Washington University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Seattle University. 

Gerald Smiley is an organizer at the Laborers’ Local Union 242.  He serves as a board member of a nonprofit organization committed to developing affordable workforce housing, social justice, economics and education. Smiley also serves on the SHA Section 3 Committee, which advises a program to help public housing residents and others in the community with low incomes gain the skills, access to jobs and small business contracts they need to become self-sufficient. “I grew up in affordable housing,” said Smiley.  

SHA Executive Director Andrew Lofton
Andrew Lofton
SHA Executive Director/ Board Secretary-Treasurer

Mr. Lofton was appointed Executive Director of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) on September 1, 2012, and leads strategic planning and the day-to-day operations of the organization. Prior to his promotion to Executive Director, he held the position of Deputy Executive Director–Finance and Administration for more than eight years. As Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Lofton oversaw SHA’s Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance and Budget, and Housing Choice Voucher functions, including the development and management of the agency’s annual budget. He has also worked closely with representatives of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding the oversight of SHA’s Moving to Work agreement, regulatory reform, and funding issues. During Mr. Lofton’s more than 40 years of public service, his many leadership positions have included Chief of Departmental Operations for City of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels; Deputy Superintendent for Customer Service with Seattle City Light; Deputy Chief of Staff for City of Seattle Mayor Norm Rice; and Budget Director for the City of Seattle. He also served as Deputy Director for the Washington State Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development (now the Washington State Department of Commerce). Mr. Lofton received his Baccalaureate from the University of Puget Sound and did his graduate work in Urban Planning at the University of Washington.