By Matt Dodge
March 18, 2013
When Dana Totman was first courted by the board of York-Cumberland Housing in 2000, the then-deputy director of the Maine State Housing Authority saw a struggling, stagnant organization in desperate need of new leadership.
"They were not real productive, they were just kind of plodding along," he says.
Photo by Tim Greenway
Poor financial health, low workplace morale and failing programs at the affordable housing development and management company in Gorham might have scared others off, but Totman was eager to enter the organizational scrum and start mixing things up. It didn't start off so well.
"I used to say the only thing worse than the 45 minutes it took to drive from Brunswick to Gorham was getting there — like, 'What series of problems will hit me today?' But we worked through it fairly quickly," says Totman, who for the last 13 years has been president and CEO of what is now Avesta Housing.
Totman's first order of business was to identify key challenges facing the organization, starting with stabilizing its flagging finances. Within his first two years, he oversaw the sale of five developments, refinanced 15 projects and restructured the nonprofit's portfolio, giving Avesta more fiscal breathing room and allowing it to invest in new staffing, technology and properties.
The organization's portfolio has more than doubled under Totman's watch, from 800 units in 2000 to 1,900 today, and revenues and assets have increased dramatically: Avesta had $32 million in assets in 2000, and $166 million in FY 2012, with revenues climbing from $9.7 million to $27 million. Last year also marked the opening of five projects — a record for the 40-year-old company — despite the distraction of a statewide controversy in affordable-housing circles.