Ginger and Tom Scott, 33-year residents of Wilde Lake, dutifully follow the actions of the Columbia Association's board of directors and staff. They attend board meetings, sometimes testifying about issues that concern them and other times listening to the group's decisions.
"I just have this very optimistic idea that maybe someday we can get somebody on the [board] not to only hear us, but perhaps to act," said Ginger Scott, a vocal critic of the association's two golf courses who also has lobbied to restore one course to open space.
The couple epitomize the grass-roots activism prevalent in Wilde Lake, Columbia's first village, which turns 36 this month.
Wilde Lake's population began with Columbia's pioneers - the planned community's first residents - many of whom still live there. They hold true to Columbia developer James W. Rouse's original vision and pass it along to newer residents.
"Back then ... many people moved from many states throughout the country because they wanted to be part of Jim Rouse's Columbia," said Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Columbia Democrat.
With a village full of longtime residents, Wilde Lake has acquired the reputation of being one of the more active of Columbia's 10 villages.
Residents routinely attend Wilde Lake Village Board meetings, while other village boards sometimes don't have any spectators. During a pre-budget hearing for the Columbia Association's fiscal 2004 budget, only the Wilde Lake Village Board sent a representative to testify about what should be included in the budget.
When residents testify at Columbia Council meetings, Wilde Lake residents usually have something to say. In February, Ginger Scott thanked the members for banning the use of leg-hold traps on association property.
"I think that people who live in Wilde Lake are very ... conscious of where they live," said Bernice Kish, the Wilde Lake village manager. " ... They are also conscious of their civic duty, and they really do come out on issues."
Rouse dedicated Wilde Lake on June 21, 1967, as the first village of Columbia, where people of all races and economic backgrounds would live side by side.
To an extent, that vision still exists in the village today. Its population of 6,590 - making it Columbia's third-smallest village - has a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and Section 8 homes. Its schools are diverse - Wilde Lake High School has 53.6 percent white students, 33.1 percent African-American students, 9.1 percent Asian students and 4 percent Hispanic students, according to November statistics.
Tom Scott said it is clear to him that residents are keenly involved in Columbia. The Scotts are members of the Alliance for a Better Columbia, a citizens watchdog group, and Tom Scott estimated that about 40 percent of the group's membership are from Wilde Lake.
"I think Wilde Lakers question authority and question, `Why are we doing this? Is this necessary?' " he said. "I think that's good."
Joshua Feldmark, Wilde Lake's representative on the Columbia Council, said the village's activism stems in part from the fact that several of Columbia's first residents still reside there. He also said the village board has created an environment that encourages community involvement.
"It's been this ongoing campaign that I think other people don't understand," he said. "It's not just that there are so many people that have been around 30 years, but the village has done so much to foster participation."
At Slayton House, the village's meeting place, many activities - town hall meetings, movies, puppet shows, senior luncheons and other events - are held to get residents involved in the community. And the village board subsidizes block parties and cul-de-sac beautification projects, Kish said.
"Residents call us with an idea, and it goes to the board and we try to massage it and do it," Kish said.
With such strong community involvement, Kish doesn't worry about the village getting enough voters when it comes time to elect representatives to the Columbia Council and village board, even when the races are uncontested. During elections in April - when the council and village board seats were uncontested - 330 residents voted, while the village needed only 260 for a quorum.
When Wilde Lake residents are concerned about something that is happening in their neighborhoods, they rally together to ensure that the community stays vibrant.
The Wilde Lake Revitalization Committee keeps up on the village's aging infrastructure, with the help of volunteers who survey every street on foot, taking note of graffiti, broken street lamps, potholes or other needed repairs.
When the Columbia Association began discussing plans last month to renovate the Wilde Lake dock near The Cove condominiums by adding lights and benches, some residents complained to the village board and council that the potential modifications would attract loiterers.