Tameka Gunn, the new president and CEO of Charlotte-based Community Link, is no stranger to affordable housing advocacy.
Gunn, the nonprofit’s vice president and chief operating officer, will succeed Floyd Davis on Jan. 1, has been at Community Link since 2007. The non-profit, founded in 1929 as a branch of Travelers Aid Society, serves 21 counties, helps people get into safe and affordable housing as well as provide homeownership counseling and tools as well as foreclosure prevention services. It also has a relocation service for domestic violence survivors.
Gunn, who joined Community Link as a housing coordinator, has worked in all of the organization’s services, including program director for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, a free tax preparation service for lower-income clients.
“It’s been our philosophy to promote from within our own staff whenever possible, and the board’s decision to promote Tameka to president and CEO is in keeping with those values,” Davis said in a statement. “Tameka understands Community Link’s culture, our systems, and our major donor and contractual relationships. She’s in a very strong position to assume the top role.”
In addition to Community Link, Gunn is vice chair of the Coordinated Entry Oversight Committee for Mecklenburg County, which connects individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with housing resources.
Community Link assists its customers along a spectrum from homeless to homeownership, every step of the way. Its Homeless to Housing program focuses on solutions to get people into safe, decent housing.
Its customers include veterans, people with disabilities, low-income families, and families escaping domestic violence.
In an interview with The Post, Gunn revealed how her transition to the new job, becoming involved with housing advocacy and succeeding Davis, who led Community Link for 20 years. Responses are edited for brevity and clarity.
• On making the transition to president and CEO:
“It's going pretty well. It’s step by step, learning new things every day – literally – around the other aspects of the agency. It’s a busy time and it’s a learning experience for me … but Floyd has been great with helping to prepare me and, me being a part of more of the board meetings, the committee meetings the majority of this year, so really helping me to start getting a better understanding and getting more connected with that side of the business.
• Leaning into Davis’ experiences to maintain the status quo or moving in a different direction:
“I will be doing in the very beginning a lot of building on Floyd’s legacy at the agency, but with my own kind of spin to different things. One of my goals that I am making as this transition happens is trying to bring more awareness around the work and services that Community Link provides in all of the counties that we serve.
“We provide services in 16 counties in the state of North Carolina; however, the majority of our work has only been in Mecklenburg County. My goal is to try to bring more awareness, cultivate more funders and donors within those other counties so that they know what we’re doing and the impact that we’re making in their areas, not just here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.”
• How having long-term experience at Community Link helps with the new job:
“I think that helps me a great deal, because I have been with Community Link for 15 years. I actually started on the front lines as the housing coordinator, so I have had the ability to really live and work the whole story and history of Community Link by providing individuals and families who are homeless or literally homeless with a place to call home.
“And also working in the VITA program, which is our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. That’s another passion of mine that I’ve had with the agency since I've been there, really to help families get a better understanding of their taxes and to help them to not have to pay those fees for the paid preparers.
“I know the culture and the people so the staff that we’ve had over the years they’ve known me they’ve grown with me, so they are confident and comfortable with my transition as well.”
• On whether her career in housing assistance was intentional or happenstance:
“It was actually happenstance. I started out as a … special education teacher for five and a half years, so service has always been something I knew I wanted to do.
“From there, I’m working with the guest Gastonia Housing Authority. When I moved here to Charlotte, I was making that commute so I was like, ‘I need to find something here in Charlotte,’ and I ran across the housing coordinator position. … It really touched my spirit because it was helping families, and I look at educating children as helping families as well. And so, I went after the position. I was thankful to get the job and it’s been my passion ever since.”