Hlass is winner in Long Reach

He defeats incumbent Odum, who is moving

Only contested race for council

Columbia

April 27, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

In yesterday's Columbia Council elections, the council's vice chairwoman, who plans to move to another village, was beaten by a challenger who was backed by a group advocating significant changes in the Columbia Association's operations.

David Hlass defeated Linda Odum, 411-240, to represent the Long Reach village in the only contested race for the 10- member council, which governs the 95,000-resident homeowners association.

"I'm elated," Hlass said. "I'm very honored and very humbled to be able to serve the people of Long Reach village."

Hlass will serve with two other new members elected yesterday to the council, whose members also act as the board of directors for the Columbia Association, which provides a number of recreational amenities and has a nearly $50 million annual budget.

In a quiet election year, eight of Columbia's 10 villages held elections yesterday to choose representatives for the village boards. Seven of those villages also voted on Columbia Council candidates.

A key issue in the Long Reach race was Odum's plan to move to Wilde Lake, likely before the two-year term she was seeking would expire.

Village property owners and lease holders can represent the village on the council, and Odum plans to continue to own property in Long Reach.

Odum said she thought her plans to move were the major factor in her loss, and some voters agreed.

Richard Blank, a Long Reach resident, said, "Linda Odum moving to Wilde Lake is disturbing. I don't think she deserves to be re-elected."

"I don't have any regrets about it. I think it would have been less than candid of me to suppress that information," Odum said. "I just hope [Hlass] takes good care of my beloved Columbia."

While Long Reach had the only contested council race, Oakland Mills was the only village to have competition for its village board, with six candidates and five open seats. In the Oakland Mills race, Calvin Ball, Werner Gruhl, David Hatch, William C. Woodcock Jr. and Kittye S. Wright were winners.

With hardly any contests, there weren't many surprises throughout the elections. Some of the greatest suspense was in whether some villages would meet their required number of voters to validate the elections.

Hickory Ridge fell significantly short of its required 333 votes. Only 186 votes were cast, leaving its five Village Board candidates and lone council candidate, Miles Coffman, 53, who was the past council's chairman, not officially elected until the village holds a special meeting May 5 to validate the results.

Yesterday was the village's first election in about 20 years in which both the council and village board race were uncontested.

"We've always made our quorum; it's never been an issue," said Jane Parrish, the Hickory Ridge village manager.

Five council candidates were elected in uncontested races.

The three incumbents who will serve on the council are: Joshua Feldmark, 28, of Wilde Lake, executive director of the Center for Environmental Citizenship, a Washington-based, nonprofit organization; Tom O'Connor, 51, of Dorsey's Search, an independent electronic production equipment sales representative; and Barbara Russell, 62, of Oakland Mills, a senior administrative analyst for the Howard County Council.

Two newcomers also faced no competition: Cabell Greenwood, 46, of River Hill, who works in account management and sales for financial services; and Phil Marcus, 61, of Kings Contrivance, a consulting software developer.

They will replace Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance and Ed Stern of River Hill, who did not seek re-election.

Feldmark and Russell were each elected to a one-year term. Coffman will also serve a one-year term, once Hickory Ridge's results are validated. The other four elected candidates will serve two-year terms.

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.

Town Center and Owen Brown did not hold elections because their village boards were uncontested.

In the Long Reach race, Hlass was endorsed by the issues-oriented Vote Smart Columbia, which calls for the council to be more open, believes the association's budget should be spent more wisely and supports free access to the association's pools for resident children.

Advocates democracy

The group -- which also endorsed Feldmark, Marcus and Russell -- is advocating for Columbia's elections to be more democratic. Voting rules vary in each village, with some allowing one vote per person and others allowing one vote per household.

Vote Smart shares some of the same members with Alliance for a Better Columbia, a citizen watchdog group whose members' views often clash with the council's majority.

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