Oakland Mills' Schmugge leaving after 10 years as village manager

November 30, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Oakland Mills Village Manager Susan Schmugge, the village's foremost researcher, community organizer and trouble-shooter for the last 10 years, still has plenty of mixed emotions about leaving her post today. But she got an offer she just couldn't refuse -- the chance to live for a year in southern France.

Ms. Schmugge, a 22-year Oakland Mills resident who progressed from volunteer to village board member to manager, said she is excited about living overseas but will miss the people she works with and her involvement in the community.

"If I'm not crying about leaving, I have a big grin on my face," said Ms. Schmugge, 54, who began her community involvement in the mid-1970s on an Oakland Mills open space advisory committee.

Ms. Schmugge's husband, Tom, a research scientist, will be working for the French government for a year starting in January, Ms. Schmugge said. The couple, who have four grown children, will live in Avignon.

Ms. Schmugge will be sorely missed, said several residents who have worked with her.

Village Board Chairman James Oremland said Ms. Schmugge has been "invaluable" in providing information and researching issues for the village board, which has new members every year. He also said she has been "very attentive to every resident's call, no matter how important."

"It's more than a job to Sue. It's her community," Mr. Oremland said. "She feels very strongly about her community.

"In the community, Sue Schmugge is highly respected by anyone I've ever met. It will be a difficult position to fill."

Martha Edwards, who moved to Columbia from Texas in 1983, said Ms. Schmugge helped involve her as a volunteer in community activities and running a valuable program welcoming newcomers.

Ms. Edwards, who is retired, became involved in preparing decorations for village holiday celebrations, children's parties and other community events.

"Sue's a great organizer and utilizes everyone's talent regardless of whether it's big or small," Ms. Edwards said. "She was someone you could always depend on for support. I hate to see her leave."

The village board is interviewing candidates to replace Ms. Schmugge.

A reception will be held for Ms. Schmugge from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center.

Ms. Schmugge said she is proud of the physical changes at the village center, including the development of a courtyard, the erection of the Celestial Serenade sculpture and the refurbishing of the Other Barn, the community's main meeting and activities facility.

The village manager supervises about 20 part-time employees, manages the Other Barn and three neighborhood centers, and serves as a liaison and adviser to the village board.

Ms. Schmugge served on the village board from 1976 to 1978 and as a part-time assistant to the board from 1978 to 1980. She was hired to manage Oakland Mills' facilities In 1983 and was promoted to village manager in 1984.

Some issues have remained constant since 1976, and new ones have arisen, she said. Traffic safety concerns "have only gotten worse," she said.

Issues that have commanded attention more recently include improving aging schools and ensuring that residential properties are maintained according to covenants, she said.

Ms. Schmugge said she wishes residents would turn to the village board more often to "advocate on their behalf."

"There's a grass-roots opportunity here that's very unique to small cities in America, and that's the opportunity to be heard," she said.

Ms. Schmugge said she will not be working in France. She doesn't have any plans, other than to travel and learn the language, she said.

"I'll figure it out when I get there," she said. "When I come back, I don't know what I'll do. I'll figure that out when I get back."

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