Martha Okafor is leaving City Hall at a time when ambitious social programs she has helped put together — tackling domestic abuse and incarceration of nonviolent offenders, for instance — are taking shape.
Okafor’s last day of work as community services administrator (CSA), a top city position overseeing social services, is Friday.
Mayor Toni Harp said she has found a permanent replacement, from outside the current city bureaucracy, but can’t yet reveal the name. An interim director, probably deputy CSA Sheila Carmon, will probably serve in the meantime, pending discussions with union leaders, Harp said.
“She felt like it was time for her to leave,” Harp said of Okafor. “She’s done a really good job here. We wish her well.”
Okafor said she plans to stay in the area, at least for now, while she “pursue[s] other opportunities.”
She said she feels “grateful for the opportunity to serve and have really met tremendous people,” including city alders and not-profit leaders and neighborhood residents, in her four years on the job. “I’ve learned from them as well as hopefully contributed positively in their lives.”
Harp, who as a state senator had worked with Okafor, a native of Nigeria, on public-health legislation, recruited her from Georgia in her first term to take the CSA post.
Okafor oversaw the development of a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Modeled on a similar program in Seattle, it aims to divert drug users and prostitutes from prison sentences. It is being rolled out in Downtown and the Hill on a experimental basis.
Okafor has also been working with the police department on a domestic violence initiative for Harp’s new term, for which the city received a federal grant. She said she is also proud of efforts to combat food insecurity, to promote financial literacy, to train 300 grassroots people in mental health first aid, and to develop new parent leaders in six city neighborhoods. Under Okafor, CSA has contracted with churches to operate warming centers during winter storms and reworked the city’s approach to spending money on homeless services. She has at times clashed with others in City Hall, including a former grantwriter, Carmon, and the head of a prison reentry program, over job performance.