MEA Member Spotlight
MEA Member Spotlight
MEA's Tonia Lediju, Ph.D. Appointed CEO of City's Housing Authority
By Carol Karimi

MEA Member Spotlight: Tonia Lediju, Ph.D.
In San Francisco, Tonia Lediju, Ph.D. is changing lives, one household at a time. Dr. Lediju is the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the City and County of San Francisco’s Housing Authority (the Authority).

Tonia was appointed by Mayor London Breed and the Housing Authority Commission in March 2021 after leading a transition team through a successful restructuring and overhaul of the Authority’s finances, internal controls, and operations.

Through the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program (formerly known as Section 8) and other public housing programs, the Authority serves over 15,000 San Francisco households.

In 2019, the Authority was faced with a financial crisis. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) informed the Authority that both its HCV and Public Housing programs were in default, requiring the City and County of San Francisco to start overseeing the Authority’s essential functions.

Within three months, Mayor Breed tapped then Chief Audit Executive Lediju, to lead the herculean effort to get the Authority’s finances back on track.

With the support of City Controller Ben Rosenfield, Tonia immediately assembled a Transition Team, which included senior leadership from the Controller’s Office, and leveraged their collective expertise to restructure the Authority.

Since October 1, 2019, the day Tonia began leading the Authority, the organization has successfully transitioned its entire HCV program to a private contractor.

Tonia’s clear vision and ability to create disruptive change while exercising compassion and empathy, allowed for the Authority’s extraordinary metamorphosis, which preserved critical public housing programs for thousands of families. After only one year from her appointment, Tonia was notified by HUD that the default had been cured.

“The work continues,” explains Tonia. “It was only through collaboration with HUD, key City stakeholders, our developer partners, and, most importantly, the families we serve, that success has been possible.” She also credits City leadership for the success. “The support we received from Mayor Breed and the Board of Supervisors reflects the City’s call to action to maintain and improve the quality of housing for our most marginalized populations,” shares Lediju.

Tonia gives a lot of credit to her Transition Team, which she explains worked very hard to ensure that the Authority had a blueprint to grow its expertise and the specialized skills needed to keep the organization operating as a highly-functional unit.
During the 18-month transition period, the Authority, under Tonia’s leadership, made significant strides to reach its goals of becoming fiscally sound while remaining responsive and compassionate toward the clients it serves. Specifically, the Team:
● Implemented controls—which were formerly lacking—that ensure leaders are aware of the Authority’s budget shortfall position at all times. ● Reduced its reliance on external consultants, thereby lowering operating costs by over $600,000 per year. ● Instituted a performance management program allowing the City to gauge how well its HCV program contractor fulfills its contractual obligations. ● Developed and maintained collaborative relationships with stakeholders to ensure client needs are met.

The transition period was even more challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Authority made every effort to ensure the health and safety of its residents and employees by implementing several key initiatives. With the support of federal CARES Act funding and numerous City departments, the Authority was able to distribute:

● Weekly two-week allotments of groceries to at least 600 households at rotating sites made up of fresh, high-quality, and culturally appropriate food.
● Household cleaning and paper products, and personal protective equipment.
● 500 large-supply diaper boxes monthly to families with children under age three.
● 75+ laptops to recent high school graduates living in public housing and heading to college.
“My job is to ensure we provide excellent customer service,” Tonia confirms. “We care deeply about our residents and want them to get what they need and deserve seamlessly, which are beautiful spaces to live and raise their families in.”

Tonia and the Transition Team continue to advise and lead the Authority through its transformation from being a direct service provider to becoming a high-performing contract management and performance-monitoring organization.

Overall, Tonia is pleased with the Authority’s transformation but knows much more still needs to be done.

“It’s a new day at the Housing Authority. We are turning it around,” she shares. “We are not yet where we want to be, but we are on the right path to get there. I can see the destination and we will arrive.”

Tonia’s career at the Controller’s office began in 2009 when she was appointed City Audit Director by City Controller Ben Rosenfield. Tonia rose quickly to Division Chief and Chief Audit Executive before moving to the Housing Authority. During her tenure, her division earned three Knighton Awards for outstanding work in auditing and was recognized by the Association of Local Government Auditors. Tonia is the recipient of the David M. Walker Excellence Award in Government Performance and Accountability Award. She earned her doctorate in Organizational Systems and Leadership from Saybrook University.
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