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  • CDNC's Kish reflects on a job well done and a retirement well-earned

    Mar 04, 2019 | Read More News
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    File: Margaret KishMargaret Kish plans to have no plan for her retirement, except to be quiet and still for a while. The former Director of Pima County's Community Development and Neighborhood Conservation Department stepped down March 1 after 15 years on the job. Her immediate plans for her retirement call for a week of hiking in the desert followed by a weeklong retreat at a contemplative renewal center. 

    Kish joined CDNC as director in 2004, when County administration split the former Community Development Department in two, creating CDNC along with Community Services, Employment and Training (CSET). Prior to that, she spent 20 years at the non-profit Catholic Community Services’ Pio Decimo Center.

    "I think it was intriguing to me to work on a larger scale. A lot of the work we did at Pio Decimo was directly related to the type of work that CDNC was going to be doing. We did housing, we did community development on a small scale, we had partnerships with other non-profits, we did community organizing. We were doing a lot of those things." Kish said coming to the County offered "an opportunity to do more and help more people."

    From day one, Kish set CDNC’s direction and mission to improve the quality of life for all County residents with special emphasis on economically and socially disadvantaged communities. Under her guidance, the department oversaw a number of programs and services, including the Housing Center, Community and Rural Development, Neighborhood Reinvestment, Neighborhood Stabilization, Homeless Support and Services and the Outside Agency Program that provide a foundation for other groups to fulfill their missions.

    "CDNC takes a big picture view with community development, community planning and studies, looking where issues exist now and where issues are emerging. Instead of creating programs and having a larger staff to provide direct services, what the department does is help community development agencies build their capacity," Kish said.

    She is proud of CDNC's accomplishments but gives most of the credit to staff members for establishing deep and lasting partnerships with organizations such as the Community Investment Corporation, Pima County Community Land Trust, TMM Family Services, Pio Decimo Center and others.

    "Without those collaborations and the ability to create a dialogue and communication with the communities we work with, we wouldn't be able to do our work. I think all of our staff really make an effort to be out in the community to listen, to understand needs and to try to assess what we can do to help," Kish said.

    Kish's commitment to hard work and management style created a great deal of respect and admiration among everyone she worked with.

    File: Margaret Kish with CDNC staffers"Margaret is well-respected and trusted in the community, which makes our job a lot easier," Deputy Director Daniel Tylutki said. "I think agencies and community groups have a faith and confidence in what we're doing and that comes from Margaret. She has an open heart and really wants to help people and that drive has been instilled in all of us. That's what we're here to do. People want to work with Margaret. She allows you to not be afraid of your passion to help people and to make sure you’re following the right policy."

    "I'd add she's always been very supportive and encouraged me and other staff, especially the managers and supervisors," Housing Center Director Marcos Ysmael said. "She always wants us to be creative and 'think outside the box' and create true partnerships for community development and housing with groups like the Housing Commission and the Outside Agency Committee. She always helps us put things in perspective and to be mindful of those who help us do our job."

    Kish received a Philabaum Glass Studios’ County Seal memento for her years of service to the County at the Board of Supervisors meeting Feb. 19 where she thanked everyone she worked with during her tenure.

    "I have been really impressed by the quality of the staff at Pima County, in all departments, and their dedication and desire to make the community better. It's not about them. It's really about what they can do, what skill sets they have, what tools they have, what kind of vision they have," Kish said. "I think, too, it's the leadership, the County Administrators, from Chuck [Huckelberry] to [Chief Deputy County Administrator] Jan [Lesher] to [former Deputy County Administrator] Hank [Atha] to [Deputy County Administrator] Carmine [DeBonis] to [former Deputy County Administrator] John Bernal who really give you the confidence that you can achieve your goals."

    She remains hopeful and optimistic about CDNC's future and looks forward to watching from afar as the department continues its work. 

    "It's about hope and humility and humor.” Kish said. “You have to continue to believe what you're doing does make a difference. You have to have your feet planted. It's not about you and if you start to think it's about you, you'll get knocked off your feet. And you have to have humor, especially at the grass roots level, anything can happen on any given day. People walk into your office, or call, and what you think is going to happen gets changed. You don't control the future. You have to improvise and be able to laugh at yourself."