The 10-year-old Columbia Forum has a new leader, and he knows his stuff.
In fact, David H. Tucker, who has lived in Columbia for more than two decades, knows quite a lot of stuff. Most recently a free-lance writer and organizational development consultant, Tucker has beena teacher, academic administrator, actor, radio commentator and artscritic. He came to Columbia to be Howard Community College's fundingand development director, and has also been the Columbia Association's director of performing arts.
Now, at age 57, he has taken a job that may draw on all of his previous experience: executive director of the Columbia Forum, a non-profit organization that nurtures public debate about how Columbia can live up to its ideals.
"It's a very exciting opportunity to reallybe part of a community that I love. It really gives me a chance to give something back to this community, because it's been very good to me," Tucker said.
The vacancy was left by Anne Marie O'Dwyer, who resigned April 6, citing a need to spend more time with her family. O'Dwyer took over last September for Gayle Saunier, who had run the forum since it started in 1982.
"He doesn't require any orientation.I don't think he'll miss a beat," forum President Morris Keeton saidof Tucker.
Tucker has been involved in forum activities since it began, most recently as co-chairman of the Downtown Work Group. The work group, which studies ways of making Columbia's Town Center and surrounding area a more vital urban area, is one of the forum's longestcontinuous activities.
"Among other things, (Tucker) has been very effective in keeping people's attention focused on the downtown area of the city," said Columbia Association President Padraic Kennedy, who praised Tucker's help in creating a vision of a "people place" with homes and shops added to downtown office buildings.
Tucker's primary responsibility will be to shepherd the forum through Columbia's25th Birthday celebration this year. The forum is observing the event with the final report in October of the Columbia Voyage. The Voyage, a four-year effort involving citizens' groups studying everything from the arts to governance, is "taking another look at the goals of Columbia and suggesting where we go from here," explained Tucker.
After the Voyage report, Keeton said, the forum's activities probably will be less intensive. Toward the end of the year and into next yearits board of directors will have
to plan for its future, too.
Tucker, a resident of the Bryant Woods neighborhood in Wilde Lake since 1971, will first organize a town meeting on Columbia governance June 6 at Howard Community College. The event will elicit ideas from a cross-section of Columbia residents and leaders on how well the city is governed and how that governance might be improved.
As if to balance the seriousness of that occasion, Tucker will then round up nautical neophytes for the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta June 13, which is aimed at both raising money and inspiring interest in the forum's work.
One thing Tucker did during his first week at the $35,000-a-year job was correct any misunderstandings about the nature of the entity he is piloting.
The forum, he said, is not a "think tank."
"It is the citizens of Columbia who are concerned about the goals of the community and who wish to help plan Columbia's future in the samesense that this is a planned community. Columbia really was established with a vision, and the vision was to create a new kind of urban environment in which concern about people is the primary consideration."