Growing Affordability: How a Leading Housing Agency Plans to Provide Solutions in Fort Worth – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Mary-Margaret Lemons has been very busy since joining Fort Worth Housing Solutions in 2015.

As the agency’s first legal advisor, she had a lot to learn. That meant reading and listening — two important leadership qualities she emphasizes.

She had a lot more work to do, especially in 2017 when she became president of the agency that provides rental and homeownership opportunities for people on lower incomes. She learned and tackled many things as Fort Worth closed two aging community communities, Butler Place and Cavile Place, and relocated residents across the city.

A lot has happened under Lemon’s leadership at Fort Worth Housing Solutions. The agency currently has approximately 1,500 units in development and a pipeline of projects on the way. Housing Solutions administers 6,400 rental subsidy vouchers in various programs that help 33,000 people meet housing costs every day.

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“We’re growing,” she said.

Despite all the changes swirling around her, Lemons found a family connection.

The agency is currently headquartered at the Butler Place Apartments at the northeast corner of Interstate 35 and Interstate 30, one of 52 Public Works Administration projects for low-income housing built during the Great Depression. One of the architects of this project was her great-granduncle Wiley G. Clarkson, who also built many other projects in the city including the TCU Library, Trinity Episcopal Church, and homes in Ryan Place and River Crest.

“It felt like a moment to come full circle when I found that out,” she said.

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Lemons had served as the agency’s first general counsel for the past two years. During this time, she quickly began researching the agency, which offers rental and homeownership opportunities.

“Mary-Margaret is a very solution-oriented person who I love,” said Michael Crain, a District 3 representative on the Fort Worth City Council. “If there’s a problem, she says, ‘Let’s figure out how to solve it.'”

When FWHS takes on or acquires a multifamily project in his district, Crain knows he doesn’t have to worry about that project.

“They use their wealth to then reinvest it in other places, in other parts of the city, so we can continue to care for our most vulnerable,” he said. “It’s important work.”

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Lemons, 42, has deep roots in Fort Worth, although she was born in Galveston and only came to town when her father turned pro at River Crest Country Club.

Lemons was in elementary school at the time, and golf served Lemons well. She was on the RL Paschal High School golf team and her first job with a paycheck attached was at a used golf club store on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

Lemon’s path to her current position was more of a dogleg.

She began with a degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Arlington and worked with celebrity chefs Grady Spears and Tim Love during her college years as Fort Worth and Texas cuisine began to gain culinary recognition.

“It was a great experience for an 18-year-old,” she said. “I booked cooking classes and edited cookbooks and photoshoots for all sorts of things while I was graduating from college.”

Career reevaluation began either early in the morning or late in the evening. She’s not quite sure.

“I don’t know if it was opening the door in the morning for the fishman who made the 7am delivery or clearing beer bottles from a table in the White Elephant Saloon late at night, but I thought, ‘ I know I don’t know this is a long term career path. I’m tired,” she said.

She attended Texas Wesleyan Law School, now operated by Texas A&M.

She did an internship at the OmniAmerican Credit Union and then took a full-time position there. It was an eventful time when the cooperative bank became a bank.

“It was a really community-oriented organization,” she said. “I worked in Fort Worth and met a lot of people, which has helped me now.”

She also gained a lot of experience, first when the credit union became a bank and then when the bank was sold to Southside Bank in 2014.

She worked with Tim Carter, then-president of the bank and former executive director of the United Way of Tarrant County.

Lemons received a lot of good advice from Carter.

“He challenged me to find a way to say ‘yes’ because the legal department can often say ‘no’. I like a challenge so it gave me a new way of thinking about things.”

Carter also advised her to always give more than you take.

“And that’s how I treat my employees,” she said. “I have a feeling that if you just live by this mantra, you can never go too far wrong. So give more than you take and I will do that with time, effort, everything.”

One benefit she and the agency have given employees is a four-day work week so they can spend more time with their families.

Lemon’s father died of prostate cancer in 2010 when she was not yet 30 years old. She was working at the time and in a stressful position. It made her reevaluate working life.

“I just realized that time is our most precious commodity and people really need to take their time and don’t always feel like they’re in the office or connected to the office,” she said.

The housing office introduced the four-day week shortly before the pandemic and has maintained it ever since.

“I think it just creates a better work-life balance and frankly less absenteeism,” she said. “People don’t take PTO (paid time off) because they know they have a day to get things done.”

Place of birth

Galveston

family: hUSB, Eric Lemons; Daughter, Lucy Mac, 13, and son, Thomas, 10

Education: Bachelor of Public Relations from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2002, Law degree from Texas A&M (then Texas Wesleyan) School of Law in 2007.

Experience: Reata, Tim Love, OmniAmerican Bank, Fort Worth Housing Solutions. Lemons serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Public Housing Authorities Directors Association and serves on the Board of Directors of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., North Texas LEAD and the Continuum of Care for Tarrant and Parker counties.

Volunteer Experience: Served as committee chair for The WARM Place’s annual gala. Sister Shelley Bettis is the executive director of the non-profit organization that provides grief support services to children. Also worked with Cancer Care Services.

First job: tour line. When Lemons was 15, she worked there on Locke Street. The store sold used golf clubs.

Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “Listen. I think one of the reasons I came here is because I record a lot. Always keep your eyes open, your ears open and read, read, read. I wore a HUD notice for six months (Housing and Urban Development) was tabbing around and really trying to learn the housing authority before I was asked to do an interim role here, and when they looked around and said, ‘Who knows best what’s happening’, it was me “I was there the longest. I obviously wasn’t in housing, but I knew how to get the right people around the table, so be cooperative and listen.”
Best advice you’ve ever received? “Always Give More Than You Take” by Tim Carter.

Bob Francis is the business editor of the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. This story was originally published in the Fort Worth Report.

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