Shelton Haynes on Shaking Up Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to Improve the Community

Shelton Haynes

When Shelton Haynes was named interim CEO of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, he was only the second black CEO in almost 40 years of operation. He had been the corporation’s first black COO. However, he prefers to look at the many accomplishments that have happened during his four-year tenure in the position, which became a full-time opportunity in March 2021. Once he’d heard that he would be taking the wheel at the state agency, Haynes knew that he’d have to take decisive action to move the corporation into a solid new position, especially during a global pandemic.

Shelton Haynes kick-starts improvements.

Upon hearing about his change into the leadership of the state agency, Shelton Haynes immediately began working on a 100-day plan to update, improve and modernize the organization. Started in 1984, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is a state agency that has many legacy systems and mindsets in place. Mr. Haynes had a range of ideas to update the organization, including creating a robust and helpful work culture, improving operational efficiency through modernization, and improving residents’ quality of life.

He had already started attracting first-class professionals and talent through his Reintroducing RIOC initiative, which he began in 2016 as Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s COO. This encompassed reorganizing the authority while rebranding it. Shelton Haynes’ goal was to make RIOC one of the top public benefit corporations in the State of New York while restructuring the corporation’s departments for improved efficiency. He managed this by streamlining procedures and processes, leveraging technological advancements to make work performance more efficient, moving staff members into positions that suited their strengths, bringing in strong professionals in the industry, investing in employees through training opportunities and activities as well as enhancing both external and internal communications.

Setting up for success

With his plan ready to go, Shelton Haynes started the restructuring process in the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, starting from the top and working his way down so that the corporation would be set up for future success. Though he didn’t start out looking for minorities or disadvantaged populations initially, he ended up there regardless. In a recent interview, he mentioned, “It’s a bonus having complementary pieces who happen to be minorities. However, when given a résumé, I first look at the experience of the individual, not their name or background. We completely reorganized and reshaped our organization — we expanded roles and hired new talent thanks to succession planning — but it didn’t stop there; we grew processes and encouraged team members to think outside the box, impacting change immediately and preparing for the future with proper planning thanks to surrounding myself with a brilliant bunch of individuals.”

The sky is the limit for Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation

This approach has led to outstanding results in all aspects of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation for Shelton Haynes. Capital projects are apparent from the surface, moving from a three-year average in 2013-2015 of $4.5 million, before Shelton arrived at the organization, to a total of $85.8 million ithe three-year span from 2019-2021.” Part of this has come from the corporation’s tendency to promote and move individuals within the corporation to better positions. Because they already understand the corporation, they do a great job in their new place, which is why 57% of the corporation’s workforce has been promoted since Shelton Haynes took over. Haynes comments, “Incredible things are in store for Roosevelt Island; the opportunities are endless. The sky’s the limit. Stay tuned for what’s to come because I promise you won’t want to miss it.”



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