Likely council chair to seek McCarty ouster

Morrison has backing of at least 5 members

April 20, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council representative-elect in Harper's Choice -- who has said his first order of business will be to ask for the resignation of Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty -- seems to have all but locked up the job of council chairman for the session that begins next month.

Lanny Morrison, who upset incumbent Tom Forno in the village election Saturday, reportedly has the backing of five members, including himself; and a sixth member of the incoming board said she is "leaning toward" voting for him.

The 10-member council will elect a new chairman by a majority vote at its organizational meeting May 4. Joseph Merke, the current chairman, did not run for re-election in Town Center.

Those planning to support Morrison are incumbent representatives Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown and Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance, and newcomers Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge and Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills. Donna Rice, the representative-elect from Town Center, said she is leaning strongly toward supporting him.

McCarty could not be reached for comment.

Morrison, who served as council chairman more than a decade ago, said he views the job as a "facilitator" who works with the president and association senior staff members to set the council agenda -- not just from week to week but for the whole session.

"I think that I'm the best person by qualification to fulfill that responsibility on the upcoming council," he said. "I understand the process, I understand Robert's Rules of Order, I understand the issues, and I understand how to deal with problem situations."

As of last night, no other council member had announced an intention to seek the chair. Adam Rich of River Hill has said he is undecided.

High stakes

Every chairman approaches the position differently. Merke described it as being "first among equals" -- but the stakes are perhaps higher this year, as McCarty's fate remains unclear.

Atkinson-Stewart, the council vice chairwoman, had considered running for chairwoman, but she will seek another year as the second in command.

Cecilia Januszkiewicz, the Long Reach council representative, who will be one of the board's senior members, isn't considering for either leadership role.

She sees the chairman as an "administrator" who sets the council agendas and runs the bimonthly meetings. Beyond that, the chairman traditionally has had no more authority than any other council member, she said.

"I can tell you it has been a struggle for the chairs, because none of the council members wants to give up their own influence," Januszkiewicz explained. "We all feel that we're equals."

Vince Marando of Wilde Lake hasn't considered running, either.

"Being the chair really means running the shop, and my concerns are much broader than running the shop," he said.

Asked whether he would support Morrison, Marando replied: "I'd like to know who the options are."

`Thin experience base'

Three of the new council members -- Coffman, Rice and Russell -- have never served on the council, though Coffman and Rice come from their respective village boards. Three others -- Halpin, Marando and Rich -- will have one year of experience.

"That's a pretty thin experience base," said Jean S. Friedberg Jr., who was defeated by Coffman.

The most senior member of the council will be Atkinson-Stewart, who has served six years, though not consecutively. Next in seniority are Kenneth Puckett of Dorsey's Search, who is finishing his fifth year, and Januszkiewicz, who is finishing her third. Morrison served three years from 1986 to 1989.

Atkinson-Stewart, who served with Morrison when he was chairman, said he was an effective leader who could work through conflict.

"Lanny knew how to work with people where there were disagreements to bring us around to hear everyone's viewpoint," she said. "He was able to work with us to come to a consensus, and that's what I call good leadership in a chair."

Said Halpin: "Lanny has the ability to help guide the council in carrying out a long-range plan for the next year or two."

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