Columbia Council re-elects chairwoman

May 06, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

The Columbia Council re-elected Karen Kuecker chairwoman and selected David Berson as vice chairman last night.

It was the first meeting since the April 23 election of the council, which directs the Columbia Association.

The 10-member council also discussed ways to improve the flow of information from association managers to the council, including a recommendation that the council consider hiring its own staff.

Council officers were elected through a self-nominating process.

Ms. Kuecker of Owen Brown village was unopposed in her bid to continue as chairwoman, while Mr. Berson of River Hill village was elected over Suzanne Waller of Town Center. The two officers play key roles in setting meeting agendas, tracking association issues and representing the council to outside organizations.

"I will listen and try to be open. I'm approachable," said Ms. Kuecker, who was elected chairwoman for the second consecutive year.

Ms. Kuecker, starting her fifth year on the council, said she wanted council members to work more closely as liaisons with association division directors so they are more familiar with the CA budget once the council starts deliberations.

She also said she wanted to move "quickly and vigorously" to investigate and reach consensus on whether Columbia should incorporate as a public entity, such as a municipality or special tax district. The council formed a Governance Committee in December, but it has yet to meet.

The unincorporated community is run by the private, nonprofit association, which charges Columbia property owners an annual fee to manage recreational facilities, community programs and open space areas. The council, CA's Board of Directors, recently adopted a $31.8 million 1994-1995 operating budget.

Ms. Kuecker said last year's council was productive and worked amicably through disagreements. Nine of the 10 members were re-elected or are continuing terms.

Mr. Berson, who heads the Governance Committee, said he has three goals -- ensuring that issues brought to the council are discussed openly and fairly at public meetings; reaching consensus on a future direction for Columbia, including whether the board should push for reducing the annual property assessment rate or adding services; and starting budget deliberations earlier so CA administrators will have more time to work on the council's goals.

Councilman Mike Rethman of Hickory Ridge village expressed concern that council members sometimes lack information needed to direct the organization and suggested the council consider hiring its own staff. Council members don't have the time and resources to do research for many policy and budget decisions, he said.

"I've made this suggestion facetiously before, but absent a very willing staff response to information requests, it will no longer be facetious because I can't do my job without information."

Ms. Kuecker called Mr. Rethman's suggestion a "nebulous concept."

The council debated whether association managers have been completely forthcoming with requests for information, and under what circumstances a council member's request should be denied or embargoed from other members or the public.

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