Two new members were elected to the Columbia Council yesterday, including one who soundly defeated an incumbent who has consistently criticized the Columbia Association's spending and accounting practices.
Mike Rethman, chairman of the Hickory Ridge village board, ousted incumbent Charles Ahalt, 221 to 77, to gain that village's seat on the council. Mr. Rethman labeled Mr. Ahalt a "fringe player" on the council because of the incumbent's frequent tTC diatribes about how the Columbia Association spends money and handles debt and his inability to gain support for his views.
"I think the results are good for people in the village and the town as a whole," said Mr. Rethman. "I've been on the village board a long time, and I think people to which I've been exposed recognize that while I have opinions, I'm open to being educated."
Mark Riso came in third in Hickory Ridge with 39 votes.
In Kings Contrivance, Chuck Rees garnered 216 votes to defeat Paul Amico, who had 185, for a council seat. Both candidates were making their first run for the council to replace Charles Acquard, who did not seek re-election.
Incumbent Gail M. Bailey of Long Reach won a fourth term on the council by defeating challenger Roy T. Lyons, 386 to 157.
Five council members who ran unopposed and will retain seats are: Evelyn A. Richardson of Dorsey's Search; Fran Wishnick of Oakland Mills; David W. Berson of River Hill; Suzanne S. Waller of Town Center; and Norma L. Rose of Wilde Lake. Two current members -- John M. Hansen of Harper's Choice and Karen A. Kuecker of Owen Brown -- will enter the second year of their terms.
The 10-member council acts as the board of directors, setting policy and the budget for the Columbia Association, a nonprofit organization which operates and maintains the city's recreational and community facilities and open space, and runs community services. The association's annual property charge on residents is 73 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
All 10 Columbia villages also had village board elections, only three of which were contested. The village boards act as advisory councils for grass-roots concerns, relaying recommendations and inquiries to the Columbia Council and county government.
Mr. Rees, a member of the citizens watchdog group Alliance for a Better Columbia, blanketed Kings Contrivance neighborhoods with a survey last week asking residents how they feel about the association's expenditures and annual property charge, its leadership, recreational facility rates, Columbia's form of government and the role of village boards and offices.
Mr. Rees says he's committed to lowering the annual charge and "getting more from CA for our money." He says he wants to study possible changes to Columbia's governance and ensure "open and responsive" representation.
"Let's open up CA to the sunshine," says his campaign literature.
Mr. Amico said the difference was that Mr. Rees "did a slightly better job" getting his supporters out to vote.
Mr. Amico, who is also an ABC member, said some voters he talked with were critical of his support of the Fairway Hills Golf Course project. In March, the council approved $5.2 million for its construction.
"Some people didn't want to talk about anything else. That was the only issue," he said. "It's ironic because it has no bearing. It's been decided by the previous council."
Mr. Amico supports building a second Columbia golf course as a good investment; Mr. Rees wants to scrap the project.
Mr. Rethman also supports the project, which has divided the council and residents over budget priorities.
Ms. Bailey, of Long Reach, said her efforts resulting in progress toward building a pool and paths in the Kendall Ridge neighborhood helped her cause.
She criticized the Columbia Flier, which endorsed Mr. Lyons, for "smear tactics against those of us who question how CA spends money. I'm glad to know those didn't work in Long Reach."
Ms. Bailey, who voted against money for Fairway Hills, questioned why the pro-golf course candidates -- Mr. Lyons, Mr. Rethman and Mr. Amico -- "made an effort to keep the golf issue out of the campaign."
The following were elected to boards in villages that had contested races, with votes in parentheses.
* Kings Contrivance: Incumbents Barbara Seely (305) and Bill Sowders (281) and newcomer Shayna VanMeter (233).
* Harper's Choice: Newcomer Darlind Davis (154) and incumbent Bill McKinstray (120).
* Hickory Ridge: Former council member James Loesch (225), Linda Hitzelberger (221), previous board member Miles Coffman incumbent Phil Berman (196) and newcomer Raissa Kirk (191). Incumbent Robert Hixson was sixth with 182.
The following candidates were elected in villages that had uncontested village board runoffs:
* Dorsey's Search: Incumbents Dan Bucks, Colin Cox and Ria Malloy.
* Long Reach: Incumbent Joseph R. "Ron" Beard and Cecilia Januszkiewicz.
* Oakland Mills: Incumbents Jim Oremland and Eric H. Bauman, and newcomers David A. Hatch, Ruth Cargo and Gary B. Glisan.
* Owen Brown: Incumbents Jay Stearman, Wanda Hurt and Walter A. Davidson.
*River Hill: Incumbents Bruce D. Riegel and Elliott Cowan, and newcomers Dina Michels, Kathy Ruben and Ken T. Paynter Jr.
* Town Center: Incumbents David Leatherwood, Margaret B. Woodworth and George H. "Greg" Williams.
* Wilde Lake: Former council member Michael Deets and incumbents Michelle Alexander, Howard Feldmesser and Gregory Siracusa. The newly elected board will appoint a fifth member because of a lack of candidates.