Thomas Slemmer, who has guided National Church Residences into one of the largest affordable housing owners and developers in the nation, will retire at the end of the year.

Mark Ricketts, president of operations, will become the new president and CEO.

T. Slemmer
T. Slemmer

Slemmer joined the Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit in 1976 when it was a small organization with just one development—Bristol Village, a subdivision of 323 vacant homes that was turned into a retirement community in Waverly, Ohio.

He was hired to be second in command of the organization after meeting its founder, the Rev. John Glenn, at a seminar on rural housing.

Slemmer became president in 1988, and under his leadership, National Church Residences has grown to include 340 communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico. It regularly ranks among the nation’s top affordable housing firms. This year, it was No. 8 on the AHF 50 list of owners and No. 42 on the developers list.

“We’ve always had a core value of compassion with professionalism,” says Slemmer, who plans to remain involved in the field after leaving the firm. “From the early days, we’ve also had strong financial oversight with our board members. They stressed sound business principles.”

M. Ricketts
M. Ricketts

National Church Residences started out developing one or two projects a year. When it made a big leap to four projects, the board was careful to make sure the firm could handle the increase in volume, recalls Slemmer.

With the board’s backing, the team soon began developing even more projects each year.

The organization started out building Sec. 202 seniors housing projects, which made sense because of its early experience with Bristol Village. It then became proficient at using the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) when the federal program emerged as a key financing tool in 1986. The group has since been involved in more than 100 LIHTC communities.

One of Slemmer’s proudest accomplishments is the development of nine permanent supportive housing facilities serving the formerly homeless and disabled, including a facility in Columbus and one under construction in Toledo for veterans.

He also oversaw the development of health-care services for seniors in Ohio and Florida, including 10 residential health-care communities, National Church Residences Home and Community Services, and six Centers for Senior Health offering adult-day services.

About a year ago during a backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains, Slemmer began thinking about his role at the nonprofit.

“It dawned on me you have to retire sometime if you care about the organization and its sustainability,” he says. “The right time is when you have governance and a leadership team in place. I thought it was the perfect time to make the transition to go smoothly.”

The leadership team in place includes Ricketts, who has had operational responsibility for both housing and health care. He joined the organization in 2000 as vice president and COO for housing. He was named senior vice president and COO for housing in 2003 and then corporate COO in 2012. Earlier, Ricketts served on its board of directors.

He was previously vice president of Stonehenge Real Estate Investors, vice president of Banc One Capital Corp., vice president and CFO of Arshot Investment Corp. and tax manager with Deloitte and Touche.

Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF.