Village elections spark activism Some races lack candidates, but issues spur enthusiasm

March 26, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

In next month's elections in Columbia's villages, three sets of longtime activists will compete to represent their villages on the Columbia Association's board -- races that promise to be unusually active in contrast to the apathy that has characterized most of the planned communities' elections.

Eight of 10 seats on the Columbia Council -- CA's board -- are open in the voting, but only five villages have contested elections. Voters in the 10 villages also will select representatives for 39 village board posts open this year -- most of which also are not contested elections.

Columbia elections have long suffered from a shortage of candidates and voters. In one village, no one submitted a petition to fill any of three village board vacancies.

In most villages, the deadline to apply for the village board or Columbia Council races was Friday. Elections will be April 19, and new representatives take office May 1.

Despite the lack of candidates in many races, pockets of electoral enthusiasm have surfaced in some villages, particularly in east Columbia's Oakland Mills, where controversial issues have spurred activism among some residents.

In Oakland Mills, seven candidates will vie for five village board seats -- the most interest shown in any village.

"There is certainly more competition than in recent years," said Erin Peacock, Oakland Mills village manager. "I don't think it's all related to the current situation with the village center, but I'm sure some of this reflects that."

Last month, officials from Giant Food Inc. announced that the grocery store in the Oakland Mills Village Center will close. Many residents fear other merchants will suffer without the support of the grocery store.

For the Columbia Council seat open in Oakland Mills, the current representative, Alex Hekimian, will face Gary Glisan. Hekimian defeated Glisan by just 16 votes last year -- out of 386 votes -- and the two have maintained a heated rivalry all year.

"This is clearly a pivotal period in the village," Hekimian said. "Mr. Glisan and I are on speaking terms, but I think his views are different from mine. Last year, people in Oakland Mills came and asked for a change."

Said Glisan, "I haven't been happy with the job Alex has been doing, and I think he represents a relatively small section of the community."

Columbia Council elections in Town Center and the Hickory Ridge, Dorsey's Search and Long Reach villages also will be contested.

In Hickory Ridge, incumbent Mike Rethman will face newcomer Jean Friedberg, a business and financial planning consultant who has lived in Columbia since 1971.

In Dorsey's Search, Councilman S. Kenneth Puckett will run against Dana Pescosolido, a trial lawyer who fought to win approval for the Fairway Hills Golf Course in 1993 and has lived in Howard County for about 20 years.

In Town Center, incumbent Joseph P. Merke will face Suzanne S. Waller, whom he beat for the post last spring.

In Long Reach, Councilman Roy T. Lyons will face Cecilia Januszkiewicz, who now chairs the village board.

In Oakland Mills, Town Center and Long Reach, each of the candidates is an experienced Columbia activist who has strong -- often contrasting -- opinions on the town's future.

For example, some of the candidates differ regarding construction of a $6 million health club approved by the council last month by one vote.

A newly reconfigured Columbia Council could reconsider the River Hill facility -- and vote to stop construction, a Columbia Association official said.

"A new council could be seated, and they're our board of directors," said Rob Goldman, head of membership services for CA. "They can do anything."

Each of Columbia's 10 villages also has two to five village board positions open.

In three villages, there are more vacancies than applicants. In such cases, remaining members of the board usually appoint volunteers to the positions.

Town Center has extended its deadline to enter the village board election after having just two candidates for three open spots, said Kathleen Lipparini, village manager.

In Dorsey's Search, for the first time, there are three open village board seats, but no residents have petitioned to fill them, said Anne Darrin, village manager.

In an unusual twist there, the three residents who left vacant seats on the board -- by deciding not to run again -- likely will be appointed because no one else has expressed interest in serving on the board, Darrin said.

"The board members on now have asked to be appointed," she said.

4 The openings and candidates in each village are:

Dorsey's Search: Three open village board seats: No candidates. Pescosolido and Puckett for Columbia Council.

Kings Contrivance: Five open board seats: Kirk Halpin and Barbara Sealy running. Chuck Rees for council.

Harper's Choice: Three open board seats: Tom Forno, John Hogan, Bill McKinstray, Roy G. Saltman and Nicki Stenzler running. No council seat open.

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