President search starts in Columbia

CA board to mount national search for McCarty's successor

Six-month timetable set

Some ask fresh look at Columbia itself before picking chief

May 31, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Columbia Council members gave their first public indication last night of how they intend to address the leadership vacuum in the Columbia Association, the most pressing issue facing the 10-member board.

In a series of nonbinding tallies, the council voted to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement for former CA President Deborah O. McCarty, and to have that search completed in six months.

In another nonbinding vote during a four-hour work session at CA headquarters, the board decided against hiring an interim president. The council chose instead to bring in additional help to assist association staff with day-to-day operations , specifically with legal matters, communications and public relations.

By the end of this week, CA staff intends to draft a request for proposal for a search consultant to help conduct the presidential search.

A proposal by Adam Rich of River Hill to hire a professional management team to help run CA during the presidential search -- and to evaluate ways of running it better -- drew no other votes than his own.

"I don't think that there is one right way to do this," said Lanny Morrison, the council chairman, who represents Harper's Choice. "I think that there are all different ways to do this."

McCarty resigned as CA president this month after a an often stormy 20-month tenure as Columbia's unofficial mayor.

Her departure sparked renewed debate about the structure of the unincorporated city's governing body, an unpaid group of volunteers who are responsible for overseeing a $50 million budget.

The council intends to include the community at several points during the search process. Two public meetings have been tentatively scheduled for June 14 and June 29 at 7:30 p.m., and a survey will be sent to a range of community groups.

Those groups might include village board members and village managers, covenant advisers, the county executive and County Council, the Board of Education, the Rouse Co., the business community, officials at Howard Community College and former members of the Columbia Council.

A few of last night's straw votes revealed philosophical differences among council members on how to proceed.

Some, including Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach and Vincent Marando of Wilde Lake, support creating a citizens panel to study whether fundamental changes need to be made to the council and the association.

"We need to fix our own house before we hire anyone," Januszkiewicz said. "I think that we owe that to the community at this point."

Others, such as Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills, oppose such a move.

"Some of us were elected specifically ... to solve the crisis at CA," she said. "We were elected to do a job, and I would be loathe to turn it over to another group."

She said the council's problem in recent months was a "people problem" -- not a structural one -- and claimed that complaints concerning CA's structure emerged only after problems arose with McCarty's leadership.

"I think that that is a red herring," she said. "I still haven't heard any really good claims or ideas that have to do with the structure failing."

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, council vice chairwoman, stressed the need to move quickly to fill the vacancy left by McCarty's resignation.

"Your priority is to get some leadership in there," she said. She hopes the search process can be completed in four months.

Marando, the Wilde Lake council member, said he believes that the board's job goes beyond finding a replacement for McCarty. The issue of hiring a new president, he said, is linked to the issue of defining the role of the council -- which serves concurrently as CA's board of directors.

Marando said it might take up to a year to come to some conclusions, a period of time which he called a "good breather."

Said Morrison: "To me, the No. 1 issue is really about getting someone -- or something -- in on an interim basis. I don't have any magic number on how long that might be.

"I think we owe it to our staff, I think we owe it to our community, I think we owe it to ourselves."

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