If there's a phrase that captures 1994 for the Howard County record books, it may be "growing pains."
Although the rapid development of the 1980s has slowed, the county spent the past year struggling to adapt to an increased -- and still increasing -- number of people, homes and businesses.
"I think that the rate of growth was the main issue in the county four or five years ago," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "Now, I think we are trying to catch up to the county's growth in the 1980s."
Recent political events appear to bear that out. The issue of growth dominated the fall campaign for county executive. Meanwhile, a group of residents in Columbia -- believing that their community has outgrown its homeowner-association style of government -- began a drive for incorporation.
The school system, meanwhile, was forced to deal with the county's population explosion by squeezing too many students into too few schools, to the chagrin of students and teachers alike.
In the area of crime, car theft remained a serious problem, although the county remained free of much of the violence that has troubled its suburban neighbors.
And as the business community learned, growth doesn't always mean across-the-board economic expansion. While the retail industry gained strength with the rapid development of Snowden Square, the county suffered a setback when Coca-Cola Enterprises backed off its plan to build a $200 million bottling plant that would have created 500 jobs.
It was a year that began with icy roads and frozen pipes and ended with unseasonably warm temperatures. And it was a year with its share of local oddities, from the discovery of a mass animal grave in Elkridge to the selection of a Woodbine cow as a national agricultural pinup.
Here are a few of the highlights.
After stunning the Democratic es-tablishment with her primary election victory, Susan B. Gray made slow growth the centerpiece of her campaign for county executive. Ms. Gray was defeated nearly 2-to-1 by Mr. Ecker, the popular incumbent.
Nevertheless, Ms. Gray claimed partial victory on election night after passage of Question B, a referendum she initiated that will subject most local zoning decisions to popular vote.
Countywide, candidates rode the GOP tidal wave that swept the rest of the country, resulting in the first Republican-controlled County Council.
Voters also elected the county's first new state's attorney in 16 years, as Republican Marna McLendon replaced retiring Democrat William R. Hymes.
Six weeks later, Ms. McLendon fired six of the office's 22 prosecutors and demoted two others.
The county's delegation to the state legislature gained some new faces, but two notable additions, both Democrats, were not new at all. Former County Executive Elizabeth Bobo took a seat in the House of Delegates, while former state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer returned to the Senate.
The nastiest campaign was fought between two delegates -- Martin G. Madden and Virginia M. Thomas -- who ran for the same state Senate seat. Ms. Thomas upset the incumbent, Sen. Thomas H. Yeager, in the Democratic primary, but lost to Mr. Madden, the Republican, in a close election.
With the departure of Baltimore County's Ellen R. Sauerbrey from the state legislature, Howard County gained a larger voice in the state Republican party when Del. Robert H. Kittleman was elected to replace her as House minority leader.
In Columbia, dissatisfaction with the operation of the Columbia Association sparked a movement to turn the community into what would become the state's second-largest city, with 80,000 residents.
"What served Columbia in the past quarter-century won't serve in times to come. It defies logic," declared James V. Clark, the chairman of the incorporation movement, whose supporters want a referendum on the issue. Neither the Columbia Association nor the Columbia Council has expressed support for the movement.
One of peaceful Howard County's most notable crimes last year was neither a homicide nor even a car theft: It was the case of the state's most-wanted "deadbeat dad."
After a two-year investigation, Charles Anthony Farace, 43, was arrested outside his Woodlawn home in August on charges related to delinquency on more than $48,000 in child support payments to his Howard County ex-wife.
Moments after Mr. Farace was sentenced to six months in jail last month, his 20-year-old son was arrested on charges related to missed child support payments for his own 2-year-old daughter.
As for violent crime, the county logged four homicides -- the same number as in 1993.
In March, police charged Dennis Donald Ingram, 33, of Laurel in the bludgeoning death of 25-year-old James Wayne Landon Jr. of Laurel, whose body was found in the woods near the Patuxent River.
In June, Marcos Divera Ramirez, 27, of Hyattsville was charged in the killing of Shelton Thigpen, 74, of Silver Spring, who was found strangled in a Jessup motel.