Council Corner: A Final Retrospective

After eight years as your representative to the Columbia Council and the Board of Directors of the Columbia Association, I will be stepping down at the end of April. Therefore, this is my final column and an opportunity to look back, reflect and share some of the highlights of my term.

Admittedly, much of my focus was on open space, amenities and fiscal responsibility, we experienced quite a bit of growth and development in several major areas:

Fiscal Responsibility
During turbulent economic conditions, thanks in part to internal structural conditions, when the state and county were struggling with shrinking tax bases, CA avoided a potential economic crisis. We not only kept the assessment rate as it was, we were able to lower the cap twice and still have some of the strongest financial years in the history of CA, while maintaining the highest bond rating possible.

Upgrading Aging Infrastructure
We began upgrading our aging infrastructure including the gyms, the Sports Park, enhancements of many of the outdoor pools, Splash Down, the Tennis Club House in Owen Brown, rebuilding the Club House at Hobbits Glen, and construction of Columbia’s mind body and wellness center – The Haven on the Lake.
We completed lake dredging and adopted long-term lake management plans.

Energy and Environmental Sustainability
A “greening” plan for energy sustainability and recycling was adopted and improved over the years. This past month we announced CA’s energy sources are now 100% sustainable – wind, solar, and geothermal.

The pathway around Lake Kittamaqundi has been completed after dredging and re-engineering the north side of the lake. Finally, people can complete the circuit without having to turn around and backtrack.

Retrofitting existing CA facilities with new technology and energy saving features has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars each year in energy reduction.

We adopted a Watershed Plan, hired a watershed manager, implemented rain garden projects, and even changed the grasses at our golf courses to reduce water usage and the use of chemicals in fertilizer and pesticides that helps save our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Most recently, CA announced a ban on the use of a class of pesticides that have been cited as contributing to bee colony collapse. As stewards of the land, we are going even further by planting pollinator friendly landscaping.

Reaching out to stakeholders in the community, our Annapolis delegation, the county council and executive, and the business community, the spirit of cooperation has never been higher. One of the best examples was the creation of CA’s Connectivity Plan which integrates with the county and state plans for developing increased bikeability and walkability in and around Columbia.

Peoples Park in Symphony Woods
While the press seemingly loved to fan the flames of opposition over this project, CA created the Inner Arbor Trust to implement a bold, innovative plan and vision for Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. Ground breaking is expected to begin this spring.

During my tenure, I have served in a variety of capacities, including Board Committees: Planning & Strategy Committee as vice chair and chair, Strategic Implementation and External Relations, and as Chair of the Search Committee that brought our recent President, Milton Matthews to Columbia.

Additionally, I had the honor of serving as vice chair and later Chairman of the full Board, and served seven years on the Audit Committee – six of those as Chair.

Thank you to the people who helped me along the way:

My wife, Bonnie, for putting up with the long meeting hours, being dragged to political functions where she didn’t know people, and serving as my sounding board and editor.

My mentors, advisors, and providers of guidance and wisdom, Tom O’Connor, Shari Zaret, the late Maggie Brown, Phil Nelson, and Jackie Tuma.

Our fabulous Village Manager, Susan Smith, and her team, for all their support, service, and everything they do for our community and Village Board.

All our volunteers who have served on our village board; the various chairs including Kenny Kan, our most recent chair, for their leadership and dedication.

I have come to know and treasure the many relationships I have with Board Members past and present as well as senior management within CA. It is the people I will miss most of all.

My successor will be busy! There is still much to do with upgrading our facilities, managing our expanding demand for services, and development of Downtown Columbia. I am sure they will be up to the challenge and will do a great job of representing River Hill and serving the larger community of Columbia.

I’m still here and involved in the community, working with the village, the Boy Scouts and congregation, and a business startup. And the future? Public service is still a calling. You never know.

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