Morrison is undecided about his role on panel

Columbia Council expected to pick leader at May 3 meeting

April 26, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Now that voters have selected the next Columbia Council, it's up to the panel to choose a chairman.

The man who has held the post, Lanny Morrison of Harper's Choice, says he has not decided whether he wants to do it again.

Morrison faced an accusation last year that he withheld information from other council members, a charge that he and several council allies call unfair. The community group that backed Morrison in April last year, when he won election to a two-year council term, appears to be backing away from him.

"I think new leadership would be a good idea," said Jean Moon, a longtime resident who helped organize Citizens for Columbia and Vote 01, groups that recruited candidates in the past two elections.

Seven of the council's 10 seats were decided in elections Saturday.

The terms of the remaining three council members do not expire until next April.

The new council, which will have five new members, is expected to elect a chairman at its first meeting, May 3. The chairman sets council agendas and presides over meetings. Those limited procedural powers took on greater significance last year during a period of stormy council relations, when Morrison's council foes sometimes had to fight to get matters on the agenda.

Councilwoman Pearl Atkinson Stewart of Owen Brown said she would support Morrison, but she also said she might seek the post if he does not. She served as vice chairwoman last year. "I might be interested in moving up," she said.

Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills, who frequently butted heads with Morrison and Stewart, said she is inclined to support Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge, though they often disagreed on issues.

But Coffman said work and family commitments probably would make it difficult for him to take the demanding post.

However it is decided, the chairmanship question will be the first test of the council's working relationship - after a race in which some candidates ran solely on the promise of creating a collegial council.

Four of the seven seats decided Saturday went to candidates who were either recruited or backed by Vote 01, a group that stressed collegiality and took no positions on other issues.

Members of a rival community group, called Vote Smart, also are claiming victory.

Vote Smart candidates, who billed themselves as issue-oriented reformers, defeated Vote 01 candidates in three of the hardest-fought races: in Kings Contrivance, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake.

Two of the winning Vote 01 candidates ran in uncontested races. Vote 01 and Vote Smart backed Coffman, widely seen as one of the cooler heads on the previous council.

The candidacy of his opponent, Robert E. O'Brien, was complicated by an assault conviction.

"Wherever they had a choice, the voters chose those who spoke out on issues, not those who ran on getting along or congeniality," said Norma Rose, a former Columbia Council chairwoman affiliated with Vote Smart.

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