Habitat for Humanity Detroit cuts Cockrel position

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Habitat for Humanity Detroit has eliminated its executive director position, the nonprofit said Thursday, a move that follows the closing of two Detroit ReStore locations and layoffs more than a year ago.

“When I joined the organization roughly a year ago, the board charged me with addressing several financial issues,” said Ken Cockrel Jr., executive director.

Ken Cockrel Jr., a former city councilman and Detroit interim mayor, held the executive director position since January 2016. Cockrel was appointed after a “thorough six-month search process” by the organization, which provides affordable housing to low-income families.

"After facing several difficult years during the economic downturn, Habitat for Humanity Detroit is emerging with a new path forward," said Evelyn Brown, president of Habitat Detroit, in a statement. "... The board has made the difficult decision to part ways with Ken Cockrel Jr., who has served as executive director since January 2016."

Brown said the elimination of Cockrel's position was based on the organization's financial status.

"These changes are a continuation of work that Habitat Detroit has done to improve our financial position in recent years, which has included other reductions in force, divesting non-strategic or non-profitable assets, and reducing debt," according to the statement.

Brown and David Graham, treasurer of Habitat Detroit, are taking on new, unpaid roles as co-executive directors. Both are longtime board members. Brown is a retired senior vice president for Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corp. and Graham serves as a financial adviser at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. 

In January 2017, Habitat Detroit said it was undergoing "strategic restructuring" that included laying off most employees and closing ReStore locations.

Habitat Detroit's board of directors said they are completing a strategic and operating model for the organization.

"The board is grateful for the work and leadership that Ken has provided to our organization during this time of transition," the statement said. "His leadership at Habitat is just one of many ways he has served the people of Detroit throughout his career."

Cockrel could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night.

Cockrel previously served as executive director for the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, leading a 13-person team for the Detroit Strategic Framework, a 50-year land-use project for the city, officials said. He served as a Detroit council member for 16 years, including one term as council president and four terms on the Wayne County Commission. He was interim mayor of Detroit from September 2008 to May 2009 after disgraced Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s resignation.