Hunt for new CA chief launched

30 search firms asked by panel to submit bids

July 19, 2000|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

The search is on for a new Columbia Association president - or at least the search for a search firm is under way.

The Columbia Council has asked executive search firms across the country to bid on what many residents think is the council's most important job: finding someone to head the Columbia Association.

The last president, Deborah O. McCarty, resigned under fire in May after 20 months at the helm of the homeowners association, a quasi-governmental group that provides services for the community of 87,000.

At the council's direction, the Columbia Association has sent a request for proposals - its formal invitation to bid on the consulting job - to about 30 executive search firms, said Patrick O'Malley Jr., the association's purchasing manager.

"We can't hire a president without going through this, so this is a first step," said Councilman Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance. "This is the biggest thing that we've done as far as finding a new president."

Companies must submit proposals by Aug. 7, spelling out just how they would help the council fill the association's top job and stating how much they would charge to do it.

Association staff will make a preliminary review of the proposals to make certain they are complete. Then the full council or a committee will review the responses and interview finalists, said Council Chairman Lanny Morrison of Harper's Choice. The full council will select the search firm.

The council hopes to hire a new president by the end of the year, Morrison said.

The request does not state what the association is willing to pay a search firm. Morrison said the council will decide on that after it reviews the bids.

The council hopes a consultant can help it hire the right person for the job. The president oversees a $50 million-a-year operation that provides recreational facilities and services to residents.

McCarty, a former Atlanta recreation and parks director and longtime city councilwoman, was the second president in the planned community's 33-year history. She replaced Padraic M. Kennedy in August 1998.

McCarty resigned from her $130,000-a-year post after questions were raised about her leadership and commitment to the community. She blamed much of that controversy on the "growing pains" of the Columbia Association, which grew from a small homeowners group into a large nonprofit corporation.

McCarty's departure has sparked calls from some residents to redefine the role of president or turn the community into an incorporated city. At public forums on the presidential search, residents have suggested hiring everything from a city manager-type administrator to a policy-setting leader akin to a mayor. Council members anticipate a struggle to define the job before they can fill it.

"This was the easiest part of the process," said Councilman Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge, referring to the request for proposals. "We'll go forward from here."

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