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Bob Neill, with his youngest son, Brian, after the elder Neill was honored at Doc Jordan apartments with the dedication of a garden ,for 44 years of service.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Bob Neill, with his youngest son, Brian, after the elder Neill was honored at Doc Jordan apartments with the dedication of a garden ,for 44 years of service.

Housing authority honors former director's 44 years

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

For 44 years, Bob Neill followed his instincts, but the former director of Decatur Housing Authority was rewarded Monday for following his stomach.

The lure of a free barbecue lunch brought Neill back to DHA headquarters where his former co-workers surprised him with a stone monument bearing his likeness.

Asked to smile for a photo next to the monument, he answered, "It's hard to be happy when you're so surprised."

The monument stands in a garden next to Doc Jordan Apartments, which serves as DHA headquarters. The monument features a bronze plaque recognizing his service from November 1963 to January 2007.

Neill, 75, rose from relocation officer to urban renewal director to assistant director and in 1972 to executive director. During his tenure, Decatur expanded its public housing from 550 units to 800.

Neill said he is most proud of the development of the Home Ownership Program that built more than 150 houses and sold them with low-interest loans to people whom otherwise couldn't afford to buy a house.

"It got them out of the rental market and gave them a home they could be proud of," he said. "Well, we didn't give it to them. They earned it."

Neill said he hopes that will be a growing trend in public housing and he noted DHA demolished the old Summer Manor apartments last year and the first of 38 houses is under construction.

Neill also helped start the Decatur Housing Development Corp. that owns 135 dwelling units that are not government subsidized. The units rent on the open market and profits go to build more units.

Neill served as president of both the Alabama Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities and the Alabama Public Housing Directors. He was Housing Director of the Year in 1995.

On the national level, he was treasurer, senior vice president and president of the National Public Housing Authority Directors Association. He also was involved in the Housing Authority Risk Retention Group, which is a captive insurance company created to provide insurance to housing authorities.

Neill officially retired in January. The only hobby to occupy his time since then, ironically, is updating his house.

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