The Mary K. Nenno Advocacy Award

NAHRO's Mary K. Nenno Advocacy Award recognizes outstanding and innovative achievement in the area of legislative advocacy. Awardees are recognized during NAHRO's annual  Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

About the Award

Born in 1924, Mary Kathryn Nenno worked at NAHRO from 1960 to 1991, serving first as Assistant Director for Housing, then as Director of Program Policy and Research, then as Associate Director for Policy Development. She was one of the first to initiate NAHRO’s role as monitor and reporter on federal legislation of critical importance to housing and community development practitioners. In 1987, she and Philip M. Klutznick were jointly awarded NAHRO’s highest honor, the M. Justin Herman award. Ms. Nenno was also a Trustee Emirita of the Cooperative Housing Foundation.

A lifetime NAHRO member, Ms. Nenno was an extensive traveler, speaker and prolific writer. Her works include both articles for industry publications such as the Journal of Housing and Community Development and Development Law and Outlook, as well as full-length books such as Housing in Local Government and The Story of Housing and Ending the Stalemate: Moving Housing and Urban Development into the Mainstream of America's Future.

The Nenno award is presented in two categories: Organizational, for a NAHRO Region, Chapter or State Association, and Individual, for a NAHRO member or group of members. Awards go to efforts that exemplify the highest legal and ethical standards.

Nomination Process & Application

Application Deadline:  March 2, 2020

Apply Online
Click here to download Application Form



Chris Gouig, of Alameda County, Calif.


Donald May, Executive Director of the Adams County, CO Housing Authority

Michael Wong, Executive Director of the Harrisonburg, VA Redevelopment and Housing Authority

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) has named Donald May and Michael Wong as co-recipients of the 2016 Mary K Nenno Award during its annual legislative conference. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative achievement in the area of legislative advcoacy. Awards go to efforts that exemplify the highest legal and ethical standards. 

Donald May is a leader in housing and community development legislative advocacy. Currently serving an unprecedented second term as the Chair of the Legislative Network, Don has led a transformation of the Leg Net into a more active, efficient group, building on the efforts of past chairs. Don is also an active member of advocacy efforts within the state of Colorado, helping to create a state tax credit to produce more affordable housing in 2013.

Michael Wong has led the efforts in regulatory reform advocacy, spearheading an effort in Virginia to get Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to send a letter to HUD urging them to implement regulatory reforms. This effort has been replicated in multiple states and led to the creation of the "Gang of 13" states working together to advance regulatory reform advocacy within NAHRO. 


Ron Clewer, CEO of the Rockford, IL Housing Authority

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) has named Ron Clewer as the recipient of the 2015 Mary K. Nenno Award during its annual Legislative Conference. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative achievement in the area of legislative advcoacy. Awards go to efforts that exemplify the highest legal and ethical standards. 

Clewer, who serves as the CEO for the Rockford, IL Housing Authority, is a pillar in his community. He serves on the Governor's Housing Task Force and is deeply involved in other boards, committees, and adocacy efforts of numerous Illinois housing organizations. He is a dedicated public servant who makes a measurable difference in Rockford, in Illinois, and nationwide.


Sherry Scudder, Executive Director of Meade, Butte, and Lawrence County Housing Authorities

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) named Sharon “Sherry” Scudder as the recipient of the 2013 Mary K. Nenno Award during the annual Legislative conference. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative achievement in the area of legislative advocacy. Awards go to efforts that exemplify the highest legal and ethical standards.

Scudder, who served as the executive for the housing authorities of Meade, Butte and Lawrence counties, S.D., has dedicated forty-five years to working as a professional in public housing. She aimed to help Congress recognize the value in small public housing authorities (PHAs) by advocating for the deregulation of small PHAs. She has also advocated for legislation on behalf of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (VASH).

n addition to advocating for legislation on Capitol Hill, Scudder has demonstrated a commitment to helping those who are most vulnerable in her community. After becoming the executive director of Meade County Housing Authority, Scudder saw an unmet need in neighboring Butte County, and established a housing authority there. Then, when Lawrence County’s struggling housing authority was in need of an executive director, Scudder stepped in.


At the three housing authorities she has been a part of, Scudder worked on a variety of housing assistance programs, including Section 8 Project-Based Assistance and Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and HUD’s VASH program. She plans to retire in June 2014. Upon retirement, she will serve as the Governor of Kiwanis for the Minnesota, North and South Dakota district.



Dianne Hovdestad, PHM, CMMO, CMPO, Deputy Director, Sioux Falls (SD) Housing and Redevelopment Commission

The 2012 Mary K. Nenno Advocacy Award was granted to Dianne Hovdestad, Deputy Director at the Sioux Falls Housing and Redevelopment Commission. Dianne has been a committed NAHRO leader for several years, serving on the National NAHRO Board of Governors and as member of the Legislative Network. She’s helped shape housing policies after tirelessly advocating for affordable housing programs during her career, working with a plethora of South Dakota Representatives and senators. 

Dianne has actively worked close with the Senate Banking Committee Staff to amend a bill that would have allowed PHAs to meet their financial needs. The amendment, which was unfortunately defeated, would have let PHAs use a portion of their net restricted assets to support administrative fees. She has since continued to raise awareness about the challenges faced by public housing and Section 8 programs. Dianne has also spearheaded the legislative involvement among South Dakota NAHRO members, mobilizing them to regularly contact their congressional delegation with concerns.

Her work includes preparing briefing books for the South Dakota Congressional delegation for the last ten years, which candidly showed representatives just how their proposed legislations might affect low-income families and communities. Her briefing books provided demographic information about families living on rental assistance, and her thorough research provided details on their income and the cost of their rent. 

“Dianne has provided exemplary, on-going efforts advocating for issues surrounding housing programs that provide safe, affordable and healthy living environments for our low-income citizens”, said Shireen Ranschau, Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Housing and Redevelopment Commission. “In my opinion, Dianne has shown exceptional determination in improving the provisions of housing programs at the local, state and national levels.”


Jim Coleman, Vice Chairperson, Housing Authority of the City of Marianna (AR)

James R. (Jim) Coleman has served as the Executive Director of the Camden Housing Authority, Camden, Arkansas for the past 36 years.  For more than 20 of those years, he has been a leader in legislative advocacy for NAHRO on the local, state, regional, and national levels.  His efforts to spearhead legislation from the grassroots level to positively affect public housing across the nation have been tremendously successful, causing other states to now consider Arkansas a pioneer state in housing advocacy.  In an attempt to restore economic stability and to create major revitalization in federal housing, he has created and maintained a legislative network and has annually authored position papers to help guide legislative decision making.  Mr. Coleman has willingly shared his leadership expertise by serving as President of Arkansas NAHRO, President of Southwest NAHRO, NAHRO Board of Governors, and Vice Chairman of HART’s (housing retirement) Board of Trustees. 

“Jim is a very strong Advocate for housing, not only in Arkansas but for the entire Southwest region and at the National level,” said Barbara Suber, Executive Director of the Monette (Ark.) Housing Authority. “In my opinion, it would be hard to find a more worthy or deserving housing advocate in our nation. His commitment to improve our industry through legislative advocacy and involvement are unsurpassed.”

Mr. Coleman’s accomplishments are many; some of the ones that have had the greatest impact were:

California Association of Housing Authorities (Organizational)

Before 2010, there were three organizations in California to which the state’s housing authorities could belong: the Northern California/Nevada Executive Directors’ Association, the Housing Authority Association of Southern California, and the California Housing Authorities’ Association. In 2008, unbeknownst to the housing authorities and without any consultation with them, a bill was introduced in the State Assembly to prevent housing authorities from disposing of and redeveloping their public housing. Although the bill had already been approved by one committee and was quickly moving to the State Senate by the time the housing authorities found out about it, the authorities were able to negotiate a bill satisfactory to them. But it became apparent that a strong, coordinated approach was required and that a statewide organization should be forged to respond to, and advocate for, state and federal housing legislation and funding beneficial to California.

Each of the three existing organizations appointed members to a transition team that met several times over the course of the next year to work out details and develop a “Practices and Procedures” document that served as the basis for the by-laws. At the same time, the organizations decided that, for the first time, they would jointly prepare a “Legislative Focus” paper for distribution locally and at NAHRO’s Legislative Conference. Each of the three organizations then adopted the by-laws as drafted by the transition team, and the officers of the California Association of Housing Authorities (CAHA) took their seats as of July 1, 2010. Now, though not even a year old, CAHA has already coordinated the state's delegation to the NAHRO Legislative Conference and has held its first California Legislative Conference with accompanying calls upon California legislators.

In Sacramento, just one month after formalizing its existence, CAHA held its first Legislative Advocacy Days conference. During the Advocacy Days, directors of various state agencies/departments expressed delight that California housing authorities had organized themselves.

Most recently, CAHA has partnered with other organizations in California in response to the Governor’s 2011-2012 budget,  which proposed the elimination of redevelopment agencies. CAHA members completed surveys describing the projects they have developed using redevelopment funds and detailing the number of jobs created. The organization was invited by the state legislature to testify at legislative committee hearings about the importance of redevelopment dollars in their projects/communities. Although the budget process is still underway, and even though redevelopment agencies may be eliminated, CAHA has raised the level of understanding at the state about the abilities of housing authorities and the numerous services they provide.


  • LaVon Holden, Executive Director of Vancouver (Wash.) Housing Authority


  • Minnesota NAHRO


  • Tony Bazzie, Executive Director of the Raleigh County (WV) Housing Authority
  • The New York City Housing Authority
  • The Massachusetts Chapter of NAHRO (MassNAHRO)
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NAHRO Staff:Tess Hembree