Council selects new chair

Unanimous vote elects Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge

`I'll try to be fair'

Linda Odum re-elected vice chair, defeating Tom O'Connor, 6-4


May 03, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council elected Miles Coffman as its chairman last night, beginning a new term for the conflict-torn council that one member said she hopes will mark a "fresh start."

The council voted unanimously to appoint Coffman, of Hickory Ridge, to the volunteer position.

No other council members were nominated for the role.

"I think I'd bring a perspective of one who works hard and understands the issues," Coffman said. "And I'll try to be fair - I think that's the biggest issue."

Coffman, a 17-year Columbia resident, is in his third one-year term on the council.

He has chaired the council's finance and audit committees and served on his village board for 10 years before joining the council.

The council, which acts as the Columbia Association's board of directors, also voted 6-4 to re-elect Linda Odum of Long Reach as vice chairwoman over Tom O'Connor of Dorsey's Search.

"I think she served admirably last time," said Councilwoman Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown, who nominated Odum. "We need her help."

Councilwoman Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills, who is often in the minority when the council votes, said she would support the nominees in the "spirit of getting off to a fresh start and a good start."

The election was the sole purpose of the council's first meeting of the new term.

The council members are scheduled to go on a retreat tomorrow and Sunday at Wye River Plantation, where they likely will discuss a controversial proposed pledge, which resembles a written oath of office, that would require them to swear their "undivided allegiance" to the Columbia Association.

Council members are also divided on a proposal that would require them to list any companies, governmental bodies, agencies or organizations of which they are employees, members or representatives.

Both proposals were tabled at the board's April 25 meeting, during which the board passed an ethics policy change that restricts board members who were county, state or federal employees from discussing or voting on matters related to their employer.

Only one person - Wolfger Schneider of Harper's Choice - is new to the 10-person council this year. Schneider defeated Lanny Morrison, the council's chairman for the past two years, in that village's election.

Morrison was the only council member seeking re-election last month who lost.

Morrison's leadership style had been commended by some council members but criticized by others who claimed he overstepped the chairman's role in setting agendas and in how he presided at meetings.

His foes on the council had complained that they sometimes had to fight to get issues on the agenda. He had also been accused of withholding information from other council members on issues including a land-annexation plan and renting the Columbia Association Horse Center.

Morrison has disputed such claims.

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