Making neighborhoods stronger
Susan Eisenhauer, Fort Wayne’s new director of Neighborhood Code Compliance, says her dad was the reason she’s always been interested in giving back to the community.
Educated through the G.I. Bill, Eisenhauer’s father would appear at City Council meetings in her hometown and made it a point to be civically active throughout his life. It’s a perspective that Eisenhauer weighed as she decided whether to apply to run Neighborhood Code.
“What I was looking for, was some way to make a big difference in the community at large,” Eisenhauer, 62, said.
That’s what she hopes she’ll be able to do as she gets settled into her new role.
Eisenhauer replaces Cindy Joyner, who was promoted to director of community development in May to replace former Director Greg Leatherman after his retirement last year.
“Susan will be a great asset to our team,” Joyner said in a statement Wednesday. “She is passionate about helping build strong neighborhoods that provide an excellent quality of life for residents.”
Before working for the city, Eisenhauer was executive director for Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinic. She has also worked as an organizational consultant, a hearing officer for the Indiana Supreme Court and is on the board of directors for the League for the Blind & Disabled.
A native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Eisenhauer said moving around has helped her forge connections with her communities : something she hopes to continue with Neighborhood Code. Eisenhauer said she has lived in Washington, D.C., and five states: Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon and Ohio.
Eisenhauer and her husband Marc Levy, executive director of Questa Education Foundation, lived in Fort Wayne from 1994 to 2002. The couple returned to the city in 2012. Something felt unfinished here, Eisenhauer said, ever since the pair left in 2002. When they returned, Eisenhauer said she wanted to do something that would make a difference.
“We’ve had a commitment to community, my husband and I, our whole life,” she said. “Since we’ve moved around, we’ve said we want to leave everywhere a little bit better than it was.”
Neighborhood Code, Eisenhauer said, is an interesting blend between law and social work that fits her background well. Eisenhauer has a law degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in social work from the University of Cincinnati.
“It’s a balance, as all government is, between individual rights and the greater good. That’s what we are, we have to do that every day and you see that with the (Neighborhood Code officers),” Eisenhauer said. “Their goal is to help people have safe and habitable housing.”
Social work is about meeting people where they are, which is something Neighborhood Code workers do regularly.
“When you look at Neighborhood Code, it’s all about the interaction with the person,” Eisenhauer said. “What I would like to do ... is working with everybody out there. It’s already happening, but to integrate it a little more.”
One way that can happen, she said, is to do more in-service training on different scenarios that Neighborhood Code experiences frequently.
“We are the front line,” she said. “We’re before Adult Protective Services, we’re probably before the police in some cases.”
Eisenhauer said her ultimate goal is to help residents understand that they and the city are partners.
“I know there are parts of town that feel slighted and my goal is to hopefully have everyone benefit from the things that are happening that are flashier in other parts of the city,” Eisenhauer said. “And I love the neighborhoods. They’re the best part (of Fort Wayne).”