About the same time county planners targeted Odenton as a prime place to build major housing developments, the job of leading the local improvement association got tough.
Developers started bringing in blueprints, county officials started to rezone land and the people started to wonder just how their historic community would change.
Now, three developers have started building massive communities and plans are under way to design a town center -- a minicity that could include high-rise office buildings, movie theaters and malls.
And in the middle of all that, the leadership will change at the Odenton Improvement Association. Ending her four years at the helm, Pat Wellford, who led Odenton through the development boom, is stepping down.
Forced under association bylaws to retire after serving two two-year terms, Wellford said she is ready to pass the leadership to someone else.
"Four years is long enough," she said. "After serving one term, people usually want you to serve a second. But the limits take away the pressure of telling people you don't want to run again."
Members of the improvement association will vote tonight on a new slate of officers, including president, secretary and treasurer. The board has nominated Sally Shoemaker, a long time Odenton resident andboard member, as the next president.
Wellford still will serve asa member of the board of directors, but she said she will "take a back seat" in running the organization.
She certainly hasn't been able to take a back seat while in charge.
"This area always seems tobe the center of a lot of events," she said. "The issues have becomea little more complex and broader."
Since Wellford has been on the board, Odenton has dealt with comprehensive rezoning, a controversyover the expansion of the Patuxent Wastewater Treatment Plant, enlarging the parking lot at the Odenton train station and the victory in preserving surplus land at Fort Meade.
All the issues have put Odenton in the news and forced community leaders to work hand-in-hand with various county, state and national officials.
Wellford, a former legislative aide to Councilman Dave Boschert and key figure in County Executive Robert Neall's unsuccessful 1986 congressional campaign,said comprehensive rezoning was her first real test. "That was an education process," she said. "I'm not as naive as I used to be. I saw the political tools and how they were used. I would like to do it again, knowing what I know now."
But the biggest challenge, Wellford said, was dealing with developers. The board has taken the position that it must establish contacts with the companies building in Odenton, trying to work together to come up a project that fits into the area.
"We tried to do what we felt was best for the community," she said. "Some people, I think, thought we did too much with developers. Others thought we didn't do enough. But growth is not the issue anymore. Zoning is not the present issue. The next step is to make sure that the growth that is coming is compatible with the community."
Wellford said the experience has left her more cynical, but in most cases, she still has a positive attitude. "People do make a difference,"she said. "People who don't get involved because they think they can't make a difference will never get anything the way they want."
Shoemaker, who has been involved in Odenton since the early 1970s, feels the same way. If elected, she said she is excited about working with the committee designing the Odenton Town Center.
"We are in fora positive period," she said, "unless something goes drastically wrong."
Shoemaker, a retired school teacher, is the only person officially running for the presidency.
Association members, who number about 350, can nominate other people for the position tonight.