A U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will take the helm at the city’s Department of Veterans’ Services, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
James Hendon, who graduated from West Point in 2002, will succeed Loree Sutton as commissioner of the department after she steps down at the end of the month, de Blasio said at a news conference at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
“Loree, there are not enough words in the English language to describe you and all you’ve done here. Every job you took on, every assignment, you did it with heart and joy and passion and a can-do attitude, and it got done,” de Blasio said.
“I don’t think there is another Loree Sutton in the universe, but we have a successor who is extraordinary,” he added.
The department officially launched in April 2016, with Sutton at the helm. Sutton previously served as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, which was absorbed into DVS.
Since 2014, the city has seen a 97% drop in street homelessness among veterans — an all-time low, the mayor said.
Sutton oversaw the creation of a coalition called “Veterans on Campus” aimed at helping student veterans who find themselves in danger of getting evicted from their homes, according to a release.
The department also provided one-on-one help for more than 25,000 veterans and their family members during Sutton’s tenure, de Blasio noted. The city is currently home to approximately 210,000 veterans, the release said.
Sutton on Thursday didn’t share what she plans to do after stepping down, but said her aim was to “figure out how I can continue to serve.”
Hendon, meanwhile, served as a Mortar Platoon Leader and Battalion Public Affairs Officer in Iraq in 2005, and as Senior Adviser to the Afghan Border Police in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009, according to the release.
Up until recently, he was the director of the NYU Veterans Future Lab, which helps veterans and their spouses start their own businesses.
“As Commissioner Sutton would say, there’s a saying in the military that, we don’t promote individuals based on performance alone, but based on potential,” Hendon said Thursday. “That being said, I’m so grateful that you see the potential in me as a servant and as a steward of this awesome organization.”
Hendon’s first day as commissioner will be Nov. 1.
“We’ve seen how much can be done by our Department of Veterans’ Services, and we know that there’s even more out there,” de Blasio said. “Colonel Hendon, we’re going to look to you to reach a lot of people with this extraordinary team.”