Wired for community development

Brandon Holmes is the new assistant director of Covington’s Neighborhood Services Department. 

New assistant director of Neighborhood Services to leverage expertise 

COVINGTON, Ky. – Brandon Holmes was supposed to be an investment banker. At least that’s what every standardized personality test told him.
“(But) my father was a real estate investor,” said Holmes, the new assistant director of Covington’s Neighborhood Services Department. “I remember running around to the projects he bought. Watching and seeing what came out of real estate (deals) was always interesting.”
A decade and a half later, there’s no doubt: Holmes is wired for community development.
He talks about transformational real estate, investments, and property management with an energy that’s generally reserved for, well, fill-in-the-blank with just about any topic but work. Holmes is … all … about … the … work.
That’s a good thing, because Holmes’ position is a new one – created specifically to address the burgeoning workload of the Neighborhood Services Department – and it needed to be filled fast.
Department Director Ken Smith – who was simultaneously cast in the role of interim City Manager until that role is filled – noted the critical experience that Holmes brings to the table.
“Brandon has extensive experience working in neighborhoods, particularly related to housing,” Smith said. “He has worked for organizations that help fund development projects and organizations that implement those projects. He will help with all aspects of our department.”
Neighborhood Services contains five divisions: Code Enforcement, Federal Grants, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (previously “Section 8”), Solid Waste & Recycling, and Parks & Recreation, as well as the City’s early learning initiative, “Read Ready Covington.”
Holmes’ role will be to take on “special projects” for the department, and his expertise will expand its bandwidth to address additional opportunities in several of those areas.
“Housing and policy are very important to our City and its residents,” Smith said. “While we offer programs related to housing – development assistance, repair programs, down-payment assistance and the voucher program – we don’t actually have a housing division or staff dedicated to looking at larger projects or systemic issues. Brandon will definitely provide more capacity for the Neighborhood Services Department to explore those opportunities.”
No learning curve
Holmes’ acumen for real estate started early and was acquired in the trenches.
“I’ve invested in real estate since I was in grad school,” he said. “I got my first property when I was about 23 years old.”
Holmes came to the City after directing Housing and Weatherization for the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC), where he led the full scope of real estate operations and administered the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program for Northern Kentucky’s eight-county region.
While at NKCAC, he worked with the team to find solutions to an array of concerns and issues, such as the operational challenges at Lincoln Grant Scholar House, an innovative non-profit in Covington that provides housing for single parents and helps them pursue higher education and move on to meaningful careers. “I love the kind of development that Lincoln Grant Scholar House represents, and all the other development projects that I worked on while at NKCAC,” Holmes said.
Before that Holmes was a director with the Avondale Development Corporation, where he served as development partner and community liaison for more than $150 million in transformational development projects, including a major role on all single-family developments.
Young, eager … getting things done
But it was his work with the regional Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) that Holmes credits for providing him solid community development experience. LISC pools public and private dollars to work with local partners and support underinvested places and people.
“That’s where I got my base for community development,” Holmes said. “The brunt of my professional career, when it comes to community development and affordable housing – that was the backdrop for where I’m at today.”
Working as a program officer with LISC, Holmes led community development initiatives, partnerships, and programs in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. His portfolio was nearly $10 million.
Young and eager to “get things done,” Holmes was aiming for senior program officer when – at just 31 – he was named the youngest executive director in LISC’s history. Charged with creating and operating LISC’s new division in Peoria, Ill., Holmes garnered more than $4 million in financial support from public, corporate, and foundation sectors and leveraged those dollars into additional millions in investments.
“It was a great experience,” Holmes said. “They got me ready for where I am in my career now.”
Committing to communities
With his laser-focus on setting goals and going beyond them, it’s hard to imagine that Holmes ever just “fell into” anything, but that’s precisely how he describes his passion for real estate and community development.
While standardized personality tests suggested he go into investment banking, watching his father – “I think he bought his first project with the GI Bill” – pushed him in another direction.
So Holmes went on to merge his finance skill with his passion for real estate. He earned a Bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Kentucky and a Master’s in community planning from the University of Cincinnati.
During graduate school, Holmes held fellowships with the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati.
As for his new role in Covington, Holmes said he’s leveraging his expertise from his body of experience to help leaders fulfill their goals.
“Give me a high-level directive and tell me what needs to be done,” Holmes said.
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