Interim Director of Housing is Jack of All Trades

By Brett Larson, January 16, 2017

Six years with the Mille Lacs Band and a lifetime of do-it-yourself experience will serve Daniel Boyd well in his new role as Interim Director of the Mille Lacs Band’s Housing Department.

Daniel was asked by Community Development Commissioner Percy Benjamin to take the position, which he started in December.

Daniel, who grew up in the Crosby area, worked as maintenance coordinator for the Band and attended Dunwoody for training in weatherization.

“I’ve always done a lot of stuff around my own house — landscaping, plumbing, electrical. You name it, I can probably do it,” said Daniel.

That’s a good thing, because the Housing Department does just about every kind of renovation work, not just on the Band’s 529 rental homes, but on other Band buildings and private homes owned by Elders and other Band members.

“We’ve been into 760 buildings to address issues. We’re not responsible for a lot of them, but we get calls and go fix stuff. We do it all: furnaces, electrical problems, windows and doors. … But we don’t do dishes,” he joked.

The Band owns 273 rental units at Mille Lacs (District I and IIa — Chiminising), 90 in the Minisinaakwaang area (District II) and 166 in Aazhoomog and Hinckley (District III).

Daniel supervises a staff of 22 maintenance workers and 10 carpenters.

Resident services staff work with tenants, visit them, educate them and address needs they have, like filling out work orders and contacting the people who can help with issues.

The maintenance workers work on day-to-day upkeep while the carpenters focus on major renovations.

“We have a great core group of guys,” said Daniel. “A lot have been here longer than me, and I foresee them staying. My hat’s off to them. They’re up to the challenge, and I’m happy to work with them all, and I respect them all.”

The Department is limited in some of the work it can do because of federal funding. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds can only be used to fix HUD homes, for example.

The Housing Department is looking at changes to policies in coming years. Commissioner Percy Benjamin hopes to find ways to increase home ownership among Band members in order to reduce some of the problems associated with renting. The Band has great mortgage opportunities for members who want to buy.

Daniel would like the Band to hire more carpenters, not just to get more work done in a more timely fashion, but also to work on more properties. “Right now, our carpenters are federally funded, so they can only work on HUD homes. When we renovate regular homes, we put them out to bid, and we’re spending an exorbitant amount of money compared to doing it in house.”

Daniel is determined to maintain the Band’s housing infrastructure and to find ways to improve the Housing Department, for his staff as well as the residents of Band homes.

“We go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” he said. “We’re like the unsung heroes of the Band. If you put a $100,000 value on each home, that’s $52 million dollars in assets we’re responsible for, and the health and safety of the occupants. That’s a big asset, and a big responsibility, and we get it done.”