By Kia Croom
Henry Dishroom won the Community Leadership Award at the Fifth Annual George Carroll Community Service Awards, held May 3 at the Richmond Sanitary lobby in Richmond.
He said he had never imagined so many people would still remember him and celebrate his work.
I was quite moved by people’s expressions – I had not worked for the city for more than 30 years,” Dishroom said.
“My time with the city was one of the happiest times in my life, and I enjoyed what I did,” he said.
Dishroom and his family moved to the Bay Area from Monroe, Louisiana in 1945. He lived in Oakland for 20 years before relocating to Richmond.
Graduating in 1945 from Oakland Technical High School, he attended San Francisco City College, before taking a job at the U.S. Postal Service.
He had to leave school when he was drafted, spending three years in the military before resuming his studies at Oakland City College. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1960 firm UC Berkeley.
Dishroom was hired in Richmond in 1968 as Model Cities Director and Assistant City Manager, responsible for developing and managing housing, economic development, health and social services programs.
Citizen participation was an integral part of the Richmond Model Cities Program, so Dishroom looked to the Neighborhood Councils, which were already very active, encouraging their participation in the planning process.
“The citizens were my boss,” he said. “ I quickly learned that having citizens participate directly in the operation of government was not well developed at that time, although citizens in Richmond had always been organized and active.
“ So, I used the integrated neighborhood councils as a part of the governing board of Model Cities… I worked with citizens on the planning, and I worked with my staff to implement the plans.”
Dishroom became a housing manager in 1979 for the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in San Francisco.
During his years at HUD, he approved the construction of hundreds of affordable housing units benefiting low-to-moderate income households. He battled developers who were attempting to displace low-income renters and assisted community-based organizations representing low-income communities to obtain federal funds to develop and renovate housing units.
He retired in 1996.
Kia Croom is a contributing writer for the Richmond Post.