Village manager ends career after 27 years

Officially, Anne Dodd is only person to hold the position in Kings Contrivance

December 15, 2006|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

When Anne Dodd became the village manager of Kings Contrivance in 1979, she worked 20 hours a week, earning $4 an hour.

Her first office was in a now-gone public works garage on Banneker Road. Before long, she was squeezed out of that space and had to set up shop in her own home, in a bathroom that her husband had converted to a darkroom.

Dodd is the only village manager that residents of Kings Contrivance have ever known. (There was an acting manager before her, but she was the first to officially hold the title.) Barbara Seely, chairwoman of the village board, described her as the matriarch of the community, presiding over its growth and looking out for its people.

But now, after 27 years, Kings Contrivance will have somebody new sitting in the office in Amherst House. In keeping with her longtime plan, Dodd, 62, is retiring at the end of the year.

"She's been there a very long time and made so many contributions to the village that it's going to be difficult to see her go," said Seely, who has known Dodd 22 years and has worked with her as a village board member for about 18.

She described Dodd as a person who gets things accomplished while making others feel terrific about being part of it. "She's always been wonderful to deal with," Seeley said.

A lot has changed since Dodd took home that first two-digit paycheck. Now, she works full time from a spacious office in the Amherst House that she helped create.

The job has grown more complicated over the years, said Dodd, but the mission has stayed the same. "The job is really a community service job," she said. "Basically, you're an advocate for the residents and a resource for the village board."

Dodd moved to Columbia from Charlottesville, Va., in 1976 when her husband, Chuck, took a job as a media specialist in the Howard County school system.

The family first settled in Hopewell, and now lives in Wilde Lake, she said, noting that she's never lived in Kings Contrivance.

"Somebody suggested the position to me, and I needed a new car, so I checked into it and I applied for it and was selected," she said. "I quickly came to really enjoy the job."

Dodd already was active in the community, having been on the library building board that worked to create the central library. "This seemed to be an appropriate thing for me to do," she said.

One big plus was the part-time schedule. At the time, her daughters were ages 7 and 3. A baby-sitting co-op in her neighborhood allowed her to work without putting her children in day care, she said.

Dodd, who had worked as a teacher before having children, started her new job Jan. 22, 1979. She vividly remembers being given a Selectric typewriter. "I thought it was wonderful because it was electric," she said.

When she started, the village of Kings Contrivance was a work in progress. The community of Dickinson didn't exist, and in Huntington, "they were just starting to move some dirt," she said. The community had about 300 homes and roughly 1,000 people.

Now, the village has grown to more than 4,000 dwelling units and 11,000 people.

In 1988, Amherst House was built in the village center. The 4,300-square-foot building houses Dodd's office and also serves as a community hall. Part of Dodd's job is to serve as landlord of that building, as well as a smaller one nearby called The Meeting Room, which hosts a preschool.

Dodd didn't design Amherst House, but she offered many suggestions, she said. One thing she wanted was an office that would allow her to see the front desk, and allow residents to see her at work.

She makes sure the building is available for events such as weddings and bar mitzvahs, as well as activities such as yoga classes and Scrabble tournaments.

These days, the brick fireplace near the entrance serves as a prop for drawings of a Harris Teeter supermarket, scheduled to open in the village center late next year or in early 2008. Dodd said the store has been generating a lot of enthusiasm.

Monitoring the development of the village has been an important part of her job over the years, she said. Mostly, she's worked with residents to make sure their concerns are heard. As village manager, she doesn't set policy or vote on the board. "I like to think that basically what I did was day-to-day helping people," she said.

After serving a six-year term on the county school board - she was chairman in the last three years - Dodd went from part-time village manager to full-time in 1990.

But now, she is ready to leave. Dodd, a consummately organized person, said she and her husband had long planned to retire at age 62. She's been cleaning out her office and is starting to train her replacement, who has not been officially named.

"I've loved it, but I'm really ready to retire," she said. "I need to have less responsibility in my life."

She plans to take up painting and piano lessons, and to visit her grandchildren in Richmond, Va., and in Bel Air.

She will also devote more time to a charity she helped form with members of her book group. It is called the One Month's Rent Initiative, and the idea is to give money to Howard County residents who are working but still are in danger of losing housing.

The group works with the Community Action Council and never even learns the names of the families that get the money, Dodd said. In two years, 35 families have been helped, she said.

Jill Bartos, operations coordinator for the village, has worked with Dodd for four years. "She's been a terrific boss," she said. "We're all sad to see her go."

Behind the desk in Dodd's office is a poster that says: "To Build a Better City is to Work at the Heart of Civilization." Dodd says the poster was loaned to her by a village frame shop that has since gone out of business. She doesn't know how to return it, so she will leave it for the next village manager.

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