What Michael Tubbs called his “second career” — revitalization of the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama — is slowly winding down.
Tubbs recently announced his retirement, more than 18 months before he plans to pack up his office at the organization where he has spent nearly 12 years serving as the chief executive officer.
Tubbs, who will turn 66 in September 2018, plans to retire that following month.
Before coming to Community Action in 2005, he worked in various areas at Alabama Power Co. in Birmingham for 30 years. Working for Community Action became what he calls his second career.
“I wasn’t old enough to not keep working,” he said with a laugh. “We have a great team, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to be the CEO of this company.”
Tubbs’ interest in Community Action, which helps the elderly, low-income and youths, came from his experience working on economic development projects with Alabama Power, he said.
Tubbs promised the Community Action board he would give at least a year’s notice before retiring in order to give them time to select another CEO, he said.
“It is so typical that he would think of the board and the company first,” board attorney Bingham Edwards said.
Edwards said he noticed a special energy in Tubbs that helped to greatly increase the organization’s ability to serve the community.
“I recognized in Michael almost immediately his heart for helping the people that had difficulties helping themselves,” Edwards said.
Since Tubbs started, Community Action has expanded its service area from eight to 16 counties, increased its staff from a little more than 200 to nearly 500 people, doubled the number of children served and nearly tripled its operating budget.
“He’s really run Community Action like a business even though it’s a nonprofit,” said David Mathews, Decatur-area president of Bank Independent and chairman of the Community Action board. “Some people think nonprofits shouldn’t make any money, but we have to in order to keep the thing going.”
Both Mathews and Tubbs agreed the biggest issue Community Action has faced — and will face — is funding.
President Donald Trump’s recent discussions about cutting the Community Development Block Grant Program, which provides funding for several Community Action programs, and slashing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has raised concerns.
Without the funding from the federal government, many of the programs Community Action provides would disappear, Tubbs said.
“(Community Action) is a grants-management program. If I don’t have grants, I don’t have staff. They all go home. I go home. That’s just the way it is,” Tubbs said.
Edwards has worked with Community Action’s board of directors since the early 1970s as the board attorney, and said every presidential administration since the Jimmy Carter era has brought its own form of budget cuts that have affected some of Community Action’s programs.
However, this year’s talk of elimination of the CDBG program came as a surprise to Tubbs.
“It’s just a proposal, and we hope that Congress would consider all things,” he said. “I hope we can communicate to elected officials that there is value to what we do … so that they can have confidence if they give 100, they will get 100 in value back.”
During Tubbs’ time as CEO, he has worked to secure multiple community housing projects across north Alabama that will not only secure additional revenue for Community Action, but also provide quality housing for income-eligible families, Edwards said.
“With the housing investments that we’ve gone into, he has given us the ability, at its present funding in the community, to survive this administration to possibly another administration that would make more funding available,” Edwards said.
Building up these community housing projects has helped ensure the future of many Community Action programs, including Early Head Start and Head Start, which is the largest early child education provider in the state, he said.
Community Action has 1,507 residential housing units available among 28 housing developments across the Southeast.
“Michael took that housing program and he really perfected it. He increased our housing holds many times over and has now expanded it into other states,” he said.
The housing market is competitive, and Mathews credits Community Action’s success in creating more housing on Tubbs’ ability to partner with both nonprofit and for-profit companies.
“(The community housing) is a very complicated, tax-exempt-driven program and other Community Action programs avoid it because they don’t understand it, but Michael has embraced it and really run with it,” Edwards said.
Tubbs’ vision and commitment to creating a well-trained team has helped to ensure the future of Community Action, Mathews said.
“He’s built a well-trained leadership team, and the results from that training are measurable,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s always been done here.”
Edwards said Tubbs is leaving the agency in better shape than when he acquired it. He credits Tubbs’ commitment to training and professional development to the agency’s growth.
“He’s not only expanded Community Action’s programs, he’s also found new, more energetic board members,” he said.
For the next 18 months, Tubbs said he plans to keep working diligently to help the vulnerable in the community.
The board is building its strategy for finding a new CEO, Mathews said. But the board hopes to have a new CEO selected in early 2018 in order to provide time for some overlap and a smooth transition, he said.
Even though Tubbs will no longer be involved with Community Action as CEO, he plans to stay connected and volunteer for various projects throughout north Alabama.
“I certainly do want to stay in a servant role,” he said. “That has been my model as a servant leader. You don’t have to have a full-time job to be a servant leader.”
Tubbs said he and his wife enjoy living in the Tennessee Valley and will continue to be involved in the community.