Fermanich named new Housing Authority director
LaDonna Fermanich has been selected as the new Merrill Housing Authority executive director, taking over for the retiring Wayne Zimmerman.
Fermanich started with the Housing Authority in 2005 as a part-time secretary at Jenny Towers. She worked there for five years before being transferred to Park Place and the executive secretary position.
Fermanich took over her new duties as executive director on July 1. Following a one-month transition, Zimmerman will officially retire on July 31.
Fermanich said she is excited about the opportunity to head the Housing Authority, which operates Jenny Towers, Park Place, Westgate Apartments and six scattered sites in the city of Merrill. Her favorite part of working for the Housing Authority has been interacting with the tenants, she said.
“I enjoy the people,” she said. “Most of our population is elderly and they’re a very colorful generation. The service that the Housing Authority provides to them is important to them and their families.”
The two high-rise buildings contain a total of close to 200 apartments. There are 10 units at Westgate Apartments and other nine units at the scattered sites.
The Merrill Housing Authority is governed by a Board of Commissioners, who selected Fermanich to be the new executive director.
Becoming the executive director of the Housing Authority wasn’t exactly a lifelong career goal for Fermanich. She actually went to school for residential design and architecture and worked at Church Mutual for 12 years before joining the Housing Authority.
“I’m a firm believer in fate leading you to where you’re supposed to go,” she said.
The Housing Authority is a non-profit entity, which receives Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding and is subject to federal regulations. In addition to the administrative work, Fermanich holds tenant meetings and works at both main buildings as needed.
Fermanich is known to keep her sense of humor at work. She said she’s found a job that she definitely enjoys.
“If you can enjoy it, it’s not such a burden,” she said.
Zimmerman said he’s pleased in the commission’s choice of Fermanich.
“She’s a bright, capable woman. I have all the confidence in the world in her,” Zimmerman said. “She’s been in the housing industry for seven years, she knows the population and the organization, and she knows what she’s getting into.”
Zimmerman is retiring from a 37 year career in public service, the last 19 years as Merrill Housing Authority director. A Merrill native, he previously worked for the Lincoln County Social Services department. He said he especially enjoyed his time with the Housing Authority.
“It’s been a pleasure to be able to offer a quality product to the citizens of Merrill,” he said. “I think we do an excellent job providing good housing at a reasonable cost. There’s a sense of pride in the work we do here.”
Zimmerman is quick to credit the staff for the success of the operation.
“We have a fantastic staff, people that do excellent work,” he said.
Working with an elderly population was a “breath of fresh air” after working with delinquent youth for 17 years at Social Services, Zimmerman noted.
“The people are very appreciative of what we do, it’s very rewarding work,” he said.
While he’s looking forward to retirement, Zimmerman will miss the interaction with tenants and staff.
“I’m very grateful for the last almost 20 years of working for the Housing Authority,” he said. “I really enjoyed the job that I was doing. I’m leaving a job that I care about deeply.”
Among his accomplishments are executive director, Zimmerman was able to secure grants nearly every year to do capital improvement projects at the facilities.
“I think I’m leaving the Housing Authority in a solid financial state,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
In retirement, Zimmerman is looking forward to spending more time on hobbies and projects, and doing things with his already-retired friends. Most of all he’s excited to spend more time with his family, which will include his first grandchild later this year.
“I’m going to continue on with my normal lifestyle, but I’ll have more time for myself and my family,” he said.