Quiet elections this year for the council, villages

Odum only incumbent to be challenged

two elections are canceled


April 20, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

It is a quiet election year in Columbia - no heavy campaigning, one lone contested race for the Columbia Council and no major controversies.

When residents go to the polls Saturday, there will be choices only in Long Reach, for council candidates, and in Oakland Mills, for the village board. All the other races are uncontested.

Only eight of the 10 villages are holding elections - Town Center and Owen Brown canceled theirs because of the uncontested village board races. The candidates seeking those positions will be appointed to the boards.

In the solo race for the 10-member Columbia Council, which governs the 95,000- resident Columbia Association and also serves as its board of directors, David Hlass is challenging incumbent Linda Odum for the Long Reach seat.

Odum, the council's vice chairwoman, has specific issues for which she would like to lobby, if re-elected, including accelerating open-space projects for the village, revitalizing the village's older pools and advocating better transportation resources.

Hlass' primary goal is to ensure that residents receive fair value for their annual property lien payments to the homeowners association, now 73 cents per $100 of valuation on 50 percent of the fair market property value.

Hlass acknowledged he does not know all the answers to residents' questions and concerns, but he pledged to seek the information if elected to the council.

One of the more interesting aspects of the race is that Odum, 61, a real estate agent, is planning to move to Wilde Lake before the two-year term on the council she is seeking would end.

Long Reach property owners and leaseholders can serve on the council as the village's representatives, and Odum plans to remain a property owner in the village.

At a recent forum for Long Reach candidates, Odum told potential voters that "living in another village is not going to negate [her] experience" after she has lived in Long Reach for 13 years.

But Hlass, 48, a retired military officer and pilot who has also lived in Long Reach for 13 years, said he felt it was important to "be a part of the group ... you're representing."

Other incumbents

Four other incumbents are seeking re-election: Tom O'Connor, 51, of Dorsey's Search, an independent electronic production equipment sales representative; Miles Coffman, 53, of Hickory Ridge, the council chairman who is also a vice president, business banker for Allfirst; Barbara Russell, 62, of Oakland Mills, a senior administrative analyst for the Howard County Council; Joshua Feldmark, 28, of Wilde Lake, executive director of the Center for Environmental Citizenship, a Washington-based nonprofit.

Two newcomers are facing an easy election to their first terms on the council: Phil Marcus, 60, of Kings Contrivance, a consulting software developer; and Cabell Greenwood, 46, of River Hill, who works in account management and sales for financial services.

The two are running unopposed, and, if elected, they would replace Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance and Ed Stern of River Hill, who are not running.

For village elections, a certain number of votes is required to validate the election.

The remaining three council members - Wolfger Schneider of Harper's Choice, Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown and Donna L. Rice of Town Center - are in the middle of their two-year terms.

Marcus said he was surprised that he is facing no opposition.

Competition is `good'

"I certainly believe that, in general, it's good to have competition, whether it's electoral politics or business or what have you. But it's also not under my control," Marcus said.

Greenwood said the lack of competition concerns him. While some residents may be reluctant to run for office, others may not know about the possibility of serving on the council, he said.

"It's not even that people aren't willing to participate. I think that people aren't aware of the opportunities," he said.

Unlike past years, when outside groups recruited candidates or offered endorsements, only Vote Smart Columbia is active this year. The issues-oriented group shares some of the same members with the Alliance for a Better Columbia, a citizen watchdog group that often clashes with the views of the council's majority.

Vote Smart supports free access to the association's pools for resident children and is pushing for the Columbia Association to distribute an annual financial report to every Columbia home. The group also believes that the homeowners association should spend the money it collects more wisely and that Columbia's elections should be democratic. Now, voting rules vary in each village, with some allowing only one vote per household.

Vote Smart has endorsed four candidates: Feldmark, Hlass, Marcus and Russell.

In the only contested race among Columbia's 10 village boards, six candidates - Calvin Ball, David Gardner, Werner Gruhl, David Hatch, William C. Woodcock Jr. and Kittye S. Wright - are vying for five seats.

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