It’s paid off.
Edwards was recognized as the city’s 2013 Employee of the Year.
He was dedicated, his nomination stated, to “consistently getting the goal accomplished – whether on the clock or off,” was loyal to the department mission, and “demonstrated commitment to the highest levels of customer service,” and is a valuable team player.
Edwards was hired in 2009 as program manager for the Housing and Community Development Department. Part of his job was to manage stimulus money that came from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program through the Housing and Economic Recovery Act.
“It was designed to be a foreclosure assistance program,” he said, “but not for homeowners who were having difficulties with mortgage payments or who were surrounded by abandonment. It was for actual neighborhoods and communities, so that those properties could be purchased, rehabbed, and then put back on the market to put a bottom on the foreclosure crisis.”
After two more rounds of funding from different sources to try to ease foreclosure problems, Edwards said he and others in his department began seeing a bigger need than just housing development.
“Housing, community development and economic development all have to work hand in hand,” he said.
His job transitioned into economic development and focused on developing a business development loan program, action plans and then into working more directly with the sales teams and marketing efforts of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem revitalization project.
“So I’m kind of in this hybrid spot in the department because I have a mortgage background, I have a finance background, and I worked with credit counselors, home ownership counseling and real estate. So they use all of those,” he said.
He also writes the federal Housing and Urban Development-mandated consolidation plan every three years and the HUD-mandated annual plan, which outlines how the city will use HUD program funds.
Edwards grew up in Savannah, Ga., graduated from Mercer University and took his first job with a group home in Atlanta working with children who were victims of physical and sexual abuse.
Then he took a job in Clayton County working with tobacco prevention programs before returning to school to earn an MBA in finance.
For a while he worked with Washington Mutual Bank as a personal finance representative, “which was a fancy name for a teller,” he said.
He developed an interest in becoming a loan officer, and then in investments. When he decided he wanted a full-fledged mortgage job, he moved to Augusta.
Edwards set out to learn everything he could about mortgages, such as FHA loans and creative financing, then took a job with Advanced Mortgage and was closing deals all over the state.
“Then the crash came,” he said. “I did some real introspection. One of my clients did have an adjustable rate deal and was going to drown. And I had a talk with that gentleman and his wife and heard their story, and thought about my role in it. I got a wake-up call.”
So he went to work for the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, or NACA, a nonprofit housing agency, and worked his way up to director.
He started helping homeowners get mortgages based on affordability, at interest rates that are below prime and not credit-score driven.
“The exact opposite of the world I had been in,” he said.
After two years of working with NACA, the city of Augusta offered him a job.
“Now I’m on the government end looking at (housing),” he said. “I’ve been blessed to be in all three spots when it comes to helping people get houses. I’ve worked for banks where we were all about the dollar, and we want to do the right thing, and we’re ethical and legal, of course, but are we always moral? I don’t know.
“Then, I worked from the non-profit end where there is morality and ethics first and you’re broke. And now I’m on the government end, supplying the type of funding that allows those two organizations and aspects while in this unique arena of Augusta, Ga., also building houses directly. It’s different.”