Self-examination urged for Columbia

May 12, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Community residents and the new Columbia Council made their first public comments last night on the state of local governance as the Columbia Association prepares to launch its second search for a president in as many years.

Rick Kutz, a resident of Columbia since 1970, said the planned community has reached a "critical stage in its governance."

He urged the 10-member council, which serves concurrently as the association's board of directors, to re-examine the way Columbia is governed, but he warned that it will be a "complex and lengthy" process."I am seeking evolution, not revolution, in our commitment to the community," Kutz said.

In remarks at the council's first meeting of the new session, Joshua Feldmesser, Wilde Lake Village Board chairman, proposed hiring an interim president quickly, but he suggested leaving that person in place for as long as two to three years.

During that period, Feldmesser said, the association should examine a range of issues, including whether it sees itself as a corporation or a governmental body; how to define the role of the president and council; the length of council members' terms; and what relationship the association has, formally and informally, with Columbia's 10 villages.

Feldmesser suggested that the interim president be hired with the help of professionals, and that only candidates from outside the Columbia Association be considered."We believe that the interim president should not be a current or former member of CA staff, or anyone else who is in any way connected to our organization," he told the council.

Council members differ on how to proceed with the search for a successor to Deborah O. McCarty, who resigned effective May 3 after 20 months on the job.

Barbara Russell, the newly elected representative from Oakland Mills, wants to hire a leader within three months.

Cecilia Januszkiewicz, who represents Long Reach, supported Feldmesser's comments last night, saying it would be "foolhardy" to rush into naming a permanent president.

Januszkiewicz advocates forming a citizens panel to review the way Columbia is governed before any long-term personnel decisions are made. She has been at the forefront of a push to make all council terms two years, with elections held the same year in every village.

Vince Marando, who represents Wilde Lake, likewise has proposed a top-down review of the Columbia Association, which he thinks suffers from inherent structural flaws. The way he sees it, leadership issues go beyond the office of the president.

"This is a long process, and we shouldn't get tired in this process," he said. "We're doing more than just tinkering," he said.

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