Wishnick announces she won't seek re-election

March 09, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Columbia Council Vice Chairwoman Fran Wishnick announced yesterday that she won't run for re-election, describing her three years on the board as an "intense experience" and a "love-hate relationship."

Ms. Wishnick, of Oakland Mills village, discussed at a press conference her accomplishments on the council and the strengths and shortcomings of the system in which the nonpartisan council serves as the nonprofit Columbia Association's Board of Directors.

"It's very trying as a volunteer. There are a lot of problems with being miscategorized," she said. "I guess that's the problem with politics. If so, then I guess I'm not a political animal.

"There were rewards to the position, but I guess I need to remove myself from the intensity" of working to make changes and dealing with nine other council members and the press, she said.

Elections for the 10-member council, which represents Columbia's 10 villages and sets policy and the budget for the association, will take place next month.

The association's $32 million operating budget comes largely from annual property fee paid by Columbia property owners and fees paid by users of recreational facilities, community programs and open space.

Ms. Wishnick said the volunteer position required the time commitment of a half-time job. She said she enjoyed gaining insight into the association's operations and working to create new and improved programs to meet community desires.

She worked to establish an "Adopt a Stream" program, improve access for the disabled at association facilities, develop the first survey of Columbia households, open up facilities to a broader population through discounts and promote action on long-standing issues, such as voting rights and governance.

"Fran has done an outstanding job. She's brought a lot of good ideas and expertise to the council. She'll definitely be missed," said Council Chairwoman Karen Kuecker.

But Ms. Wishnick said she became frustrated that antagonism developed over "legitimate differences of opinions," and that disagreements over how money was allocated "became translated into accusations of special interests and budget fat."

"It's a diverse community with differences of opinion," she said. "The way to resolve that is to look at services and make sure they respond to the diversity. I attempted to do that."

During her tenure, the council did not always assume a strong leadership role, Ms. Wishnick said. The next council should establish a more concrete agenda and process for taking action, she said, pointing to the recent budget deliberations in which major changes were proposed within days of adoption as a shortcoming.

However, she said she resents the implication that the council is unduly influenced by association managers, adding that the association operates effectively.

Ms. Wishnick said it often has been unwieldy working on such a large board with wide-ranging views. She said there's "not much rationale" anymore for having representation by village since Columbia is nearly entirely built.

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