Ken Pedersen retired recently after serving nearly 30 years as Regional Housing Authority director, and he’s succeeded by Jodi Royal-Goodwin.
Ken Pedersen retired recently after serving nearly 30 years as Regional Housing Authority director, and he’s succeeded by Jodi Royal-Goodwin.
January 9, 2014

As executive director of the Regional Housing Authority serving Carroll-area families for nearly last 30 years, Ken Pedersen enjoyed the opportunity to help thousands of families secure safe, decent and affordable housing.

While names such as Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and Family Self-Sufficiency Program may cause some eyes to glaze, they were the main focus of Pedersen's work every day, and enabled him to extend a helping hand to people looking for basic needs.

He received a reminder of the importance and impact of his work shortly before his retirement began recently.

Pedersen recalls a letter from a Carroll woman who's achieved financial independence with help of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

"She said it allowed her to go to school, to get on track to become self-sufficient. It was very impressive," Pedersen says. "She said it made all the difference in the world to her to receive the subsidy while she was going to school because she didn't have to spend so much time working. Then once she got through school and got a job, she became self-sufficient to the point where she no longer needed rent assistance. It allowed her to go back to school without the stress of paying high rent. Then when she finished, got a job and completed the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, she was able to get out on her own."

The opportunity to help others with housing needs fit Pedersen's course of study at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, where he graduated in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in accounting and business management plus a lot of emphasis in sociology and psychology.

"You get to meet and work with a lot of people," Pedersen says of the position that he recently turned over to his successor, Jodi Royal-Goodwin, a native of Wapello, Iowa, who received master's degrees in urban and regional planning and social work from the University of Iowa in 2003 and most recently had served as housing and neighborhood development administrator in Reno, Nev.

Pedersen served the RHA office here nearly 35 years, beginning in 1979 as a housing specialist, inspecting homes and working with clients.

RHA is a nonprofit organization that receives funding for programs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but is governed by a board of directors with members appointed by county supervisors.

Pedersen has seen the RHA territory here grow from an original six counties to more than eight. The territory now includes Audubon, Carroll, Crawford, Greene, Guthrie, Harrison, Sac, Shelby and eastern Ida counties. Besides the executive director, the staff is made up of an accountant, one part-time and two full-time housing specialists who make sure housing meets standards of quality, and an administrative assistant who verifies applicants' information such as job and income.

The local RHA is authorized by HUD to subsidize 928 units, but after being hit by federal budget sequestration, funding has been available for only 844 units. Pedersen says need has increased over the years, especially since Harrison County was added to the territory. Peviously Carroll and Crawford counties received the largest funding, now Carroll is still first, followed by Harrison.

Noting the gap between need and assistance available, Pedersen says applicants now face a two-year waiting list.

"This is the longest waiting list for this Regional Housing Authority since it started," he says. "A lot of time folks will call in and they're desperate. And when you tell them here's a waiting list, they say, 'What, I have to wait two years?' What are they supposed to do for the next month and the month after that?"

Under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, clients find suitable housing of their choice and the landlord agrees to rent under this program. Rental units must meet standards of health and safety. Landlords receive rent based on a formula for clients' gross monthly adjusted income.

Pedersen says he commends landlords for their excellent working relationship with RHA. He notes instances of landlords making sure their rent costs do not exceed affordability guidelines for clients.

Pedersen and Royal-Goodwin say that about 70 percent of the households served in this territory have clients either disabled or living on Social Security income.

Besides the housing-voucher program, RHA offers the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which helps families achieve economic independence. RHA maintains a savings account for clients, who agree to successfully complete the program, which includes budgeting guidance, training or schooling, gaining and maintaining full employment. Clients agree to a five-year contract and can receive a two-year extension, provided they're making progress toward realistic, measurable goals.

RHA had to have at least 25 families sign up initially in order to receive approval for the program. Since that time, Pedersen says, the program has fluctuated from 20 to 35 families.

Royal-Goodwin says another RHA priority is housing assistance for domestic-violence victims since there's no shelter for long-term stay serving this area.

"The alternative is to stay stuck in that situation because they can't escape," Pedersen says.

Pedersen and Royal-Goodwin say RHA's programs give clients a foundation in their lives and capacity to move forward.

"It's meeting a basic human need," Pedersen says.

"You get to see one pience at a time where it's making a difference for somebody," Royal-Goodwin says, and Pedersen adds, "It feels good when everythingl pulls together, working with the private sector (landlords) to find something affordable, and (clients) are paying their portion of the rent."

Pedersen lives in his hometown of Glidden, with his wife, Deb, page desinger at the Daily Times Herald. He has two stepchildren: Keith Stork of Manson, who with wife Jenna has three children, Madison, Landon and Steven; and Dr. Angela Stork, who's engaged to Nick Garwick of North Liberty. Keith Stork works for FBG Services of Des Moines as a site supervisor at Manson-Northwest Webster Schools and also is owner of Stick It Vinyl Graphics. Angela Stork is serving her surgical residency at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

He's a 1968 graduate of Glidden High School and attended school in Sacramento Calif., and Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge before he was drafted into the Army and served from June 1970 to December 1971. He then attended Des Moines Area Community College before transferring to Buena Vista.

He enjoys woodworking and in his retirement is looking to tackle home-fixup projects. He also plans to get into a physical-fitness regimen at the Carroll Recreation Center, swimming and using the cardio-exercise equipment.

A 1988 graduate of high school at Wapello, located in the southeast corner of Iowa, Royal-Goodwin served in the Army from 1989-93, including stints in Central America and the Gulf War's Desert Shield.

Throughout her time in the Army she was a public-affairs specialist (photojournalist), with the primary duty to document the activities of the 44th Medial Brigade, both for internal documentation and publication in military and civilian periodicals. At the time the 44th, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., was the only active duty medical brigade in the Army.

She served a temporary-duty humanitarian mission to Costa Rica with the 257th Dental Company, 44th Medical Brigade providing medical and dental care to residents in rural areas north of San Jose. After Hurricane Andrew the brigade deployed to Miami, Fla., providing medical and psychological care to those impacted by the storm.

During Operation Desert Shield the brigade was based near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When Operation Desert Storm began she was attached to the 28th Combat Support Hospital, which moved into the desert just south of the Iraqi border and then 100 miles into Iraq. The hospital, which collocated with a mobile support hospital, served as the forward-most medical facility of the conflict receiving and treating the first American combat casualties.

Her education credentials include a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, master's degree in urban and regional planning and master's degree in social work from the University of Iowa, and housing development finance professional certification from the National Development Council.

She has been a housing and community development specialist with more than 10 years of experience addressing needs of low-income individuals, families and communities. She has experience evaluating individual and community needs and identifying the impact of physical and social conditions on the ability to meet basic needs or improve quality of life. Royal-Goodwin most recently managed programs financing quality, affordable housing developments, providing rental assistance, operating a service campus for those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, redeveloping foreclosed properties, and implementing economic development initiatives.

She and her husband, Robert, who is a pipeline-construction crew leader currently working on a project in Michigan, have daughters Whitney, 23, who works in the purchasing division of Hon Industries in Muscatine, where she lives with husband Adam and daughter Emree; Tori, 20, who will live in Carroll while pursuing a nursing degree; and Cheyenne, 17, who lives in Joy, Ill., where she's a junior in high school; and a son, Brady, 15, who is a sophomore at Carroll High School and interested in participating in Reserve Officers Training Corps in college.

Royal-Goodwin says many of her personal and professional interests are aligned as she enjoys participating in initiatives that focus on addressing community needs, including supporting efforts to improve the overall community and specifically the quality of life for lower-income individuals. She also enjoys personal activities such as running, bicycling, horseback riding, traveling and baking. All those take a backseat, though, to supporting her children's' endeavors, she says.