Voters to reshape Columbia Council in village elections

Retirement of 4 members makes change inevitable

April 15, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

At least four villages will elect new representatives Saturday to serve on the Columbia Council during the session beginning in May, ensuring a fresh cast of leaders in a 31-year-old community that many believe is at a crossroads.

Although Columbia's elections aren't expected to draw big crowds, they will bring significant change: Four incumbents on the 10-member board, including Chairwoman Norma Rose and Vice Chairmen David W. Berson and Alex Hekimian, are not seeking re-election.

Another two, Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach and Jean S. Friedberg Jr. of Hickory Ridge, have challengers, meaning as many as six seats could change hands.

A new council "creates an opportunity for change and improvement," said Earl Jones, Oakland Mills Village Board vice chairman and a Columbia resident for 30 years, who is running unopposed for the council. "I'm not being critical of the existing council, but we do know there was internal strife.

"If we begin to focus on the broader issues and then articulate those issues to the public in a very simplistic but meaningful way, and then begin to execute on a few good things each year, I think we'll do well."

The outcomes in four villages are a foregone conclusion, assuming enough residents vote to make the election valid. Only one candidate is on the ballot in each of those villages.

In Oakland Mills, Jones will replace Hekimian; in River Hill, village board member Adam Rich will succeed Berson; in Kings Contrivance, village board member Kirk Halpin will replace Chuck Rees; and in Dorsey's Search, the incumbent, S. Kenneth Puckett, has no opponent.

How much the new council will alter the status quo -- and how well its members will work together -- is not clear. Pam Mack, a vice president of Columbia Association, which the council oversees, doesn't anticipate major changes in direction or philosophy.

She said the candidates seem to be running "not to make drastic changes, but to preserve the good things that we have."

In Wilde Lake, two candidates are vying to replace Rose, who has served nine years on the council: Vincent L. Marando, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park and Michael Deets, a project coordinator for University of Maryland Medical Systems.

Marando, a former member of the village board, said at a candidates forum this week that the new council should focus on community revitalization and covenant enforcement. He called this a "watershed" year.

"The council in the past, for a great deal of its history, was a rubber stamp for the previous administration," said Marando, referring to the tenure of former CA President Padraic M. Kennedy.

Deets, a former village board official who served one term on the council before losing to Rose, called the current council "fractured" and said he would serve as a consensus-builder. His top priority is reducing CA's debt.

In Long Reach, the race is expected to draw a larger turnout than usual. Januszkiewicz, the incumbent, faces a challenge from community activist Deborah Tolson, who is involved in the village's anti-crime "Hot Spot" program.

The contest got attention recently when Januszkiewicz insisted that renters bring a copy of their lease to the polls to be eligible to vote.

Januszkiewicz said she was ensuring that a long-standing election rule be observed, but Tolson, who is expected to have a large constituency among renters, said the request reminded her of "old polling days down South."

Januszkiewicz, an assistant state attorney general, is campaigning on her experience in local office: She served six years on the village board, the last three as chairwoman, and has been on the council for two years.

Tolson's platform is one of "accessibility, sensitivity and accountability."

In Hickory Ridge, Friedberg is being challenged by Robert O'Brien, a retired economist who ran last year.

Council seats in Harper's Choice, Owen Brown and Town Center are not up this year.

On Saturday, residents will also elect members to their village boards, which handle local issues such as traffic and covenant complaints. Voting hours and locations vary from village to village.

Voting places

Dorsey's Search

Location: Linden Hall 8: 30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 410-730-4005

Harper's Choice

Location: Harper's Choice Village Center 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 410-730-3888

Hickory Ridge

Location: Hawthorn Center 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 410-730-7327

Kings Contrivance

Location: Amherst House 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 410-381-9600

Long Reach

Location: Long Reach Village Center 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 410-730-8113

Oakland Mills

Location: Oakland Mills Village Center and Thunder-Mart 8: 30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 410-730-4610

Owen Brown

Location: Owen Brown Village Center 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 410-381-0202

River Hill

Location: River Hill Community Center 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 410-531-1749

Town Center

No elections (residents voted previously to forego elections if races are uncontested)

Wilde Lake

Location: Wilde Lake Village Center 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 410-730-3987

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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