In Character, Rethman Exits With A Bang

Outspoken Ca Chairman Lets Fly At His Opponents

April 28, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

To some a candid leader, to others a rude bully, Mike Rethman made a name for himself during his one-year term as chairman of the Columbia Association's 10-member governing board.

And last week, he delivered one heck of a sign-off. In a pointed five-minute speech during a Thursday night board meeting, Rethman assailed two fellow board members.

Referring to board member Norma Rose by name and board member Alex Hekimian by implication, Rethman said their "hearts are usually in the right place, but [their] overblown egos, coupled with little or no experience in management oversight and finance, frequently waste gobs of meeting and [CA] staff time."

Rethman also denounced various political opponents and local newspapers. Too much stupid bickering from these fronts, he said, could ruin Columbia.

Then Rethman announced he and his wife were moving to Hawaii.

Rose sat silently during Rethman's speech but said Friday: "It was just very sad to see him use his final public appearance to continue in that vein."

Hekimian could not be reached for comment Friday.

Tensions growing

Tensions have been rising on the CA governing board, which oversees the nation's second-largest homeowners association. These tensions peaked during Columbia's elections April 18 and 19 when Rethman was defeated by newcomer Jean Friedberg.

In general terms, Rethman was cast as a supporter of expensive new recreation facilities. His opponents said this would swell CA's already large debt. Rethman and others say the facilities will bring in funds to reduce the debt.

Rethman also blamed his defeat, in equal measure, on an editorial in The Sun, campaign mudslinging in the streets and letters to the editor published in a weekly newspaper. Rose wrote one of these letters, describing Rethman as "divisive, deceptive, arrogant and out of touch."

Asked about the letter Friday, Rose, of Wilde Lake village, said: "I think it was a fair description."

Both sides of this debate have their supporters.

In Rose's case, they tend to be citizens who don't want CA building a planned $6 million athletic club in River Hill village and a $3 million SportsPark and ice rink in Harper's Choice that Rose has tirelessly opposed.

In Rethman's case, supporters liked his active approach to running the governing board.

Rethman, for example, struck a higher profile than CA chairmen in the past by speaking before the Howard County Council to seek more government funds for Columbia.

And Rethman can be a strong speaker. Among his comments Thursday night:

"We have a press that is so obsessed with conflict and sound bites that it has lost much of its ability to cover solutions. And the individuals who `win' these mean and vulgar battles fought in seas of superficiality are the biggest impediments to meaningful civic solutions.

"In closing," Rethman said, "I genuinely fear visiting Columbia in 10 or 15 years and thinking, `Oh, yeah, Columbia, it sure was nice once.' Twenty years ago, there was no Columbia neighborhood I would not have lived in. Now there are. This slow-moving threat requires an intensity and scope of civic responsibility that is atypical."

Pub Date: 4/28/97

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