CHIP at 40

More than 2,300 housing units later, it has reason to celebrate

Forty years ago, Chico State hired me to write a grant proposal. I forget what it was about, but I do remember that a guy named Kevin Campbell was at work in the same office, putting together a funding pitch to start a housing-rehab program in Chico.

As the saying goes, from the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak. Campbell’s proposal—generated collaboratively with Jim Jessee, the late Bill Murphy and Keith Hopkins—led to creation of the Chico Housing Improvement Program, or CHIP, a partnership between Chico State and the city of Chico designed to improve a small neighborhood south of campus through a housing rehab program.

And that’s what it did, for a while. But the need for affordable housing was great, and CHIP outgrew rehab work, becoming the Community Housing Improvement Program serving seven North State counties and building, or helping to build, new homes and multi-family units—more than 2,300 at last count, including 1,700 self-help houses. It has had, as longtime Executive Director Dave Ferrier told me, “quite an impact.”

Campbell, who became my dear friend, had a family and needed to make money, so he went to dental school, returning to Chico to practice. But he remained engaged, getting appointed to the Chico school board and then running successfully for county supervisor. He was an amiable, funny guy who had legions of friends, and all of them went into shock when he had a fatal heart attack while playing golf on the coast. He was just 41 years old. I think of him often, especially when I ride by Campbell Commons, the CHIP-built apartment complex at Seventh and Flume streets that’s named after him.

CHIP will be celebrating its 40th anniversary with a gala bash on May 9 at Lakeside Pavilion. Go to for more info. Coincidentally, another terrific housing program, Habitat for Humanity of Butte County, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary two days earlier, on May 7, at Canyon Oaks Country Club. Go to for more info about that event.

Missing Persons Dept.: I got a call recently from Ed Ronco, a reporter for the NPR station in Sitka, Alaska, inquiring about Dan Neumeister. He’s the former Enloe CEO who resigned under pressure in 2006, when the hospital’s physicians voted no confidence in him.

Neumeister has taken a job as chief operating officer at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, which operates a hospital in Sitka and several clinics in outlying towns and villages. Previously, he’d held several similar jobs on a temporary or consultancy basis.

Ronco asked Neumeister about what happened at Enloe, when its anesthesiologists resigned en masse after contract negotiations broke down—a disaster for the hospital. Neumeister’s response was that he made a tough decision that he knew was right but also put his career at risk.

“As hospital CEOs, that’s what you do sometimes,” he said. “I feel good about how I left that organization.”

Somehow I doubt that many of Enloe’s doctors share that feeling.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.