Ex-chairman picked to lead Columbia Association again

Merke, other members want closer ties to villages

May 07, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association's governing body last night elected a new chairman who wants to improve relations with the community's villages, consider acquiring more land from the Rouse Co. and streamline the council's biweekly meetings.

Joseph Merke of Town Center was unanimously elected to head the 10-member council -- which sets communitywide policy for the 87,000 residents of James W. Rouse's planned community -- for the yearlong session that began Saturday.

Merke, who described the position as "first among equals," served one term as council chair during the 1997-1998 session, but was defeated for re-election by Norma Rose of Wilde Lake. Rose did not seek re-election to the council this year.

In another unanimous vote, Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, Owen Brown's representative on the council, was installed as vice chairman at Columbia Association headquarters.

Four new members were elected to the council, which is made up of one representative from each of Columbia's villages April 17:

* Kirk Halpin, former village board member in Kings Contrivance;

* Earl Jones, former village board vice chairman in Oakland Mills;

* Vincent L. Marando, a University of Maryland political science professor and former village board member in Wilde Lake.

* Adam Rich, a former village board member in River Hill.

Several of the newcomers have said their priorities include improving relations between the Columbia Council and the villages, which were strained during the previous session.

"I surely can't say how we're going to do it," Merke said.

He added that the previous council "missed the boat" during negotiations over the villages' management contracts this year.

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