BY BARB BERGGOETZ
At Darryl Neher’s first board meeting as future CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, two families were approved as new homeowners. Board members usually announce those approvals, but Neher asked if he could do the honors.
“To hear the thrill in their voices of learning they are accepted into the program—I’ll never forget that moment,” says Neher, who officially becomes Habitat’s leader in January. “I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of those special moments.”
Neher, 51, was named CEO in September. Since then, he’s been serving as an advisor to the group while finishing responsibilities as a senior lecturer at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
“It’s an exciting time for this organization, and it’s an important time for this community to tackle the issue of housing affordability,” says Neher, an IU grad and co-host of WTIU’s “The Weekly Special.” Since its founding in 1988, the local Habitat chapter has built 187 houses. Next year it will celebrate its 30th anniversary, the last 26 years under the leadership of Kerry Thomson.
When Thomson suggested that Neher consider taking the job she was leaving, Neher says he hesitated because he didn’t have a building background—plus, he loved teaching. The more he thought about it, however, the more he realized the job would bring together many threads in his life, including his experience in land usage and planning, talk radio, local politics, and operating small businesses. Formerly Bloomington City Council president and mayoral candidate, Neher recently resigned from the Bloomington Plan Commission.
As Habitat’s CEO, Neher says his job will entail educating the public about housing needs and poverty, fundraising, supporting a strong staff, and providing strategic planning. “A lot of it is relationship building,” he says.
While Habitat has purchased enough land to build homes for about 2 1/2 years, Neher says he recognizes accessible land is limited, and revitalizing existing neighborhoods and helping people age in their homes may be options the organization will need to consider.
As he prepares to step into his role full time in the coming year, Neher is visiting build sites and Habitat’s ReStore to learn all he can. “It feels so right,” he says. “Every day, I’m seeing an impact, and that reinforces my decision.”