After commuting two hours to work every day for 12 years at a large corporation where opportunities were becoming more limited and work force reductions more frequent, Wendy A. Todd decided it was time for a change of career and lifestyle.
Ms. Todd found just what she was looking for and started a new job four weeks ago as Town Center's village manager after accepting an early retirement buyout offered by International Business Machines Corp. in Bethesda last summer.
Landing the village manager job fit well with Ms. Todd's goals -- working close to home and away from the "big business environment" -- even though the $27,500 salary is about half what she earned at IBM, she said.
"At this point in my life, it's more important I enjoy what I do than make a whole ton of money," said Ms. Todd, 49.
"I like working with people, planning events and the budget work involved. It will be a good way to apply skills I learned at IBM and to get more involved in the community again."
As a communications specialist and business analyst at IBM, Ms. Todd helped coordinate bids and analyze expenses that IBM incurred in developing proposals for more than 30 defense projects worth $5 million annually at an office complex with 2,000 employees. By contrast, at Town Center she will oversee one part-time employee and administer a budget of about $60,000 annually.
"It's a lot more relaxed" but challenging nonetheless, Ms. Todd said. "You're a lot more accountable for your decisions than in the corporate world. There's nobody to hide behind. You're really responsible for making things succeed.
"Any job where you're trying to make a difference and improve the quality of life for residents is a challenge. It requires a lot of creativity and effort, and you can't do it by yourself. You need help from volunteers and you need to motivate people to become involved. To me, this is the kind of challenge that's fun."
Ms. Todd, who lives in Hickory Ridge with her husband, Dale, replaced Cradelia Birdsong, who resigned to pursue other interests.
Donna Rice, the Town Center village board chairwoman, said village representatives hired Ms. Todd from among 70 applicants because they were impressed with her managerial experience and "people skills."
The board sought a manager who could develop programs and activities appealing to a variety of people in the community of 1,400, including children and teen-agers, residents of widely varying incomes and senior citizens at Vantage House, Ms. Rice said.
The search committee wanted a creative leader who could make the most of the limited facilities and staff in Columbia's smallest village, she said.
Ms. Todd "seemed sensitive to the needs of the Columbia community in general and Town Center in particular," Ms. Rice said. "She's been around for a while and understands the Columbia concept."
Ms. Todd grew up in Leeds, England, and graduated from the University of Wales intending to become a social worker. She left for Ottawa in 1966 when she learned that she was too young to legally handle a caseload in Britain, finding work as a research assistant for the Canadian Welfare Council.
She accepted a teaching fellowship in 1968 at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a master's degree in sociology. From 1970 to 1975, she was a manager for a Pittsburgh-area mental health and mental retardation program.
She moved to Columbia in 1975 and was executive director for five years of the Family Life Center, a Columbia-based nonprofit mental health resource center. She worked in corporate communications for the Ryland Group for a year before joining IBM in 1981.
In the late 1970s, she worked on committees that advised the Columbia Association on its annual budget and plans for programs and services.
Ms. Todd said her immediate goals for Town Center are to foster and maintain a sense of community, to integrate Vantage House residents into activities and to help the village board address issues such as pathway lighting around Lake Kittamaqundi and pedestrian access and safety in downtown Columbia.
DTCHD: Career change: from big corporation to small village