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Habitat volunteer Aaron Walker now interim director

Longtime volunteer and former board member Aaron Walker will serve as interim director of the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity until a permanent director is selected in early spring.

Longtime volunteer and former board member Aaron Walker will serve as interim director of the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity until a permanent director is selected in early spring. Purchase photo reprints »

Northampton resident Aaron Walker, 43, has been serving as interim director since M.J. Adams-Pullan left her job as executive director on Jan. 4 after 11 years.

Walker has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity for the same amount of time, serving in roles such as board member, building committee member and site supervisor and safety officer on building projects, he said.

“My job is just to keep things going until we find a director,” said Walker, who said he has no interest in permanently filling the demanding position.

“I know all too well what that job requires,” he said, laughing.

Board President Peter Jessop said Walker is key to a smooth leadership transition.

“He’s an experienced Habitat person and the timing was perfect for both him and us,” Jessop said.

Walker said he has been working as a college administrator for 13 years, most recently at the University of Massachusetts, but is currently in between jobs.

He shadowed Adams-Pullan for three weeks to learn the ropes until she left to start her new job as director of community development at the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Walker said she is still assisting Habitat in a “limited advisory capacity,” and he will meet with her weekly.

Passing the torch

“Our goal is to have a permanent executive director identified no later than the end of March, preferably even earlier than that,” Walker said.

More than 30 candidates, including some who have ties to Habitat, applied by the Dec. 28 deadline, he said.

“A highly qualified group applied,” Jessop said. “We have multiple people with great experience. We’re really enthusiastic about our choices.”

Walker said candidates are being vetted and preliminary interviews could begin next week.

“Hopefully we can winnow down a pool of finalists or semi-finalists in early February,” Walker said. “One or two finalists would eventually meet with the full board and staff.”

The nonprofit organization has built 35 homes for low-income families in the Pioneer Valley since 1989 and is currently working on a home on Garfield Avenue in Florence, one on Belchertown Road in Amherst, two in Turners Falls and two in Easthampton on East and Everett streets.

Walker said it feels “weird” not seeing Adams-Pullan at the Pioneer Valley Habitat headquarters in Florence, since she has been at Habitat for as long as he has. “M.J. was the face and heart of Habitat for so long,” he said.

The organization has changed a lot in the past 11 years under her leadership, he said.

“It’s matured,” he said. “While there are a number of challenges on the immediate horizon, we’re well positioned to survive and welcome our new director.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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