City mulls next chief

Desired qualities for new president outlined at forum

`Delegate, not dump'

Wanted: a visionary, and good manager for association


June 30, 2000|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Some residents think the next Columbia Association president should be a visionary leader. Others say the ideal candidate is a manager with good business sense.

Dick Kirchner just wants somebody who'll to talk to him.

At a public forum last night on the search for a new Columbia Association president, Kirchner said former President Deborah O. McCarty rebuffed his efforts to discuss issues concerning senior citizens, who he said are Columbia's fastest-growing population.

"The new president should be able to communicate meaningfully," said Kirchner, chairman of the association's Senior Advisory Committee.

Kirchner was one of about 45 residents who attended the forum, at Slayton House in Wilde Lake. Though still meager for a city of 87,000, the turnout was considerably better than at a similar meeting two weeks ago, which drew about a dozen people.

The meeting was the second of two the Columbia Council called to solicit public input on the next president, who will oversee a $50 million-a-year operation that provides facilities and services to residents.

The council has voted to conduct a nationwide search, which it hopes to complete in six months.

McCarty, a former Atlanta recreation and parks director and longtime city councilwoman, resigned in May after 20 months as Columbia's unofficial mayor. Her tenure was marked by controversy surrounding her leadership and commitment to the community.

Ruth Ann Hodges, a member of the Kings Contrivance village board, read a long list of qualities she would like to see in a new president. Hodges, who said she was speaking as a private citizen, not as a representative of the board, said she hoped that person would be optimistic, a good listener, a motivational manager and someone with the ability "to delegate - not dump."

"I don't think we'll ever find anyone who will meet all these," she said with a laugh. "We can shoot for it."

Suzanne Waller, a former Columbia councilwoman who lives in Town Center, urged the council to consider local candidates who fully appreciate Columbia's history and character. She recalled a casual remark McCarty made to a business group about possibly closing some neighborhood centers and pools to save some money - not realizing, Waller said, how dear Columbia residents hold those amenities.

Several residents said they feared the recent controversy would scare off qualified candidates.

Council Chairman Lanny Morrison, who represents Harper's Choice, said that several professional associations have assured council members that that there will be qualified candidates.

"This is a plum job," Morrison said. "They don't think it will be a problem."

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