CA's Atkinson-Stewart steps aside for Stack

Odom challenges Kirsch for Wilde Lake seat on board

March 28, 2010|By Larry Carson |

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, the longest-serving member of the Columbia Association board of directors, is not seeking a new two-year term in the April 24 elections, allowing Owen Brown Village Board chairman Andrew Stack to be the village's new representative.

In addition, Realtor Linda Odum changed her mind last week and has filed to oppose incumbent Phil Kirsch for the Wilde Lake seat for the third consecutive year. That makes Wilde Lake the only contested CA board race this year. A candidates' night for the two Wilde Lake candidates is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 8 at Slayton House.

Atkinson-Stewart, 72, has served on the board for nearly two decades, she said, and "it's time for a little break." She had intended to run again, she said, but talked to Stack, who was interested, and she decided to file for village board instead. Since Friday was the deadline to file and Stack is the only candidate, he wins by default.

"I've been doing this for a long time," Atkinson-Stewart said, noting that over the years, she's also run for public office, and last year helped coordinate the Obama for President campaign in the county. She's also been rocked by the recent death of former CA President Maggie Brown, which came just after a death in her own family, she said. The clincher, she said, was that she feels confident Stack will do a good job.

"I know he and I are on the same wavelength," she said. "He's someone I highly respect."

Stack, 56, has served on the Owen Brown Village Board for three decades, though he spent one year on the CA board in the 1980s, he said.

"I'm still interested in the village," he said, but he's also interested in Columbia-wide issues such as the new watershed protection program and the downtown redevelopment.

In Wilde Lake, Kirsch beat Odum in 2008 and 2009, though the margin of victory was narrow.

A former CA board member representing Long Reach from 2001 to 2003, Odum, 68, said she decided to run after seeing that Kirsch, 63, would be unopposed. The downtown redevelopment plan she supported might now be county law, she said, but there is much more to do, and she wants the Columbia Association to be more involved.

"That's not the end of the story," she said about the County Council's Feb. 1 vote. "I think CA could have played a much greater role than it did." She also criticized recent board budget decisions to begin a program of dismantling lightly used tot-lots over a 10-year period. "I think that sends the wrong message to families who may want to move to Columbia," she said.

Kirsch said if he wins a fifth one-year term, he intends to be involved in the downtown redevelopment plan's implementation, especially as it relates to pathways connecting east and west Columbia, and the Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion improvements.

"We need to coordinate with GGP," he said. "We're looking at the future," he said about the board's role.

Despite having won by just 10 votes last year, Kirsch said, "I feel pretty good" about the outcome of this year's race.

He felt he was a bit too complacent last year, he said, and he'll be knocking on doors and distributing literature to attract votes.

"I'd rather just sit back and relax," he said, laughing, than campaign for the volunteer, unpaid office.

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