Before the Columbia Association's board of directors decides next month whether it should keep Maggie J. Brown as the organization's president, some residents and organizations are urging the panel to extend her contract.
Sherman Howell, vice president of the African American Coalition of Howard County, joined a handful of residents who testified at this week's meeting of the association operations committee, asking the board to award Brown the three-year contract she has requested.
"She should be given a three-year contract. They have given her high performance ratings," Howell said in an interview this week. "The question is: What is the basis for giving her anything other than that?"
The operations committee, which is holding a series of closed and open meetings, is in the process of preparing a contract offer for Brown. The board will be presented with the committee's recommendation next month and vote on it.
Last month, five members of the of the 10-member board raised objections to Brown remaining as president beyond 2008. In an e-mail addressed to Tom O'Connor, chairman of the board, the members said they would prefer a new president because they are looking for a change in management style.
The board members opposing the three-year contract are Gail Broida of Town Center, Cynthia Coyle of Harper's Choice, Philip W. Kirsch of Wilde Lake, Phil Marcus of Kings Contrivance and Barbara L. Russell of Oakland Mills.
Coyle has said the association needs to shift its attention to quality assurance of the association's services.
The association has an annual budget of $50 million and provides recreational services for Columbia's approximately 100,000 residents and manages more than 3,400 acres of open space.
Brown, who is paid $183,000 annually, is in the last year of a three-year contract that expires April 30. She was hired as president in 2001 after a nationwide search to replace Deborah O. McCarty, who resigned.
The first African-American to lead the organization, Brown was the association's vice president for community services before taking her current position.
Members of the board, all white except for one African-American, say race is not a factor.
"I have no idea what reasoning is going on with the ones who want the three-year contact, but I know the five of us who are opposed to a long contract have never mentioned her race as a reason to deny her," Marcus said.
Brown contends she deserves another three-year term as president, pointing to her performance and her knowledge of the association's history and plans for its future. She has also said that she is willing to seek whatever training the board believes she should have.
Brown, 67, holds a degree in chemistry from Bluefield State College in Bluefield, W.Va. She has declined to say whether she would accept a one-year contact offer.
"It gives me a terrific feeling to know people pay attention to what I have done as president of CA," Brown said. "I truly feel I am absolutely capable to continue where we are right now and also to take us into the future."
Linda Odum, former association vice president of human services, spoke during an operations committee meeting Tuesday, saying that Brown has shown the ability to continue leading the organization.
"I had the opportunity to observe her at close range, in action, and she is an extremely effective and able leader," Odum said. "There is no substantive reason to replace her at the end of the year."
Marcus said he agrees that Brown has been a successful president, but he insisted that the five members still want a change at the top.
"I think those people, including Mr. Howell, who support Ms. Brown really have not addressed the concerns that the caucus of five have expressed," Marcus said. "They have not really addressed the idea that the five of us have for hiring somebody with specific managerial skills. They have focused instead on Maggie Brown the person, rather than the office of president of CA and what the qualifications should be."