By David Greisman, email@example.com
1:25 PM EDT, April 9, 2012
Nearly all of this year's Columbia Association board and village board races have already been decided — even though the election isn't until April 21.
That's because there is only one contested race out of the six CA board seats on the ballot.
Moreover, only three of the 10 villages in Columbia have contested races for village board seats and in five villages, there are more open seats than candidates.
The lack of contested races is not unusual, according to CA board chairman Michael Cornell.
"People tend to get involved when there's a perception that something's wrong," he said. "When there isn't a lot of interest in a local race, ... I feel it's because most people feel that things are pretty good as they are, and there isn't a whole lot of motivation to do something different."
Last year there were no contested CA board races and only two contested races for village board seats. In 2010, there was just one contested CA board race.
This year, the lone contested for the CA board, which sets the budgets and policies for the running of Columbia, is in Harper's Choice, where incumbent Cynthia Coyle is facing challenger Robert Fontaine.
The five candidates running unopposed for CA board seats are: Regina Clay for a one-year term in Wilde Lake; Alex Hekimian for a one-year-term in Oakland Mills; Gregg Schwind for a one-year term in Hickory Ridge; Andrew Stack for a two-year term in Owen Brown; and Suzanne Waller for a two-year term in Town Center.
Hekimian, Schwind, Stack and Waller are incumbents. Clay is now a Wilde Lake village board member.
Phil Kirsch has decided to retire after representing Wilde Lake on the CA board for the past six years.
"I thought I'd give somebody else a chance," he explained, also citing undisclosed health reasons.
Schwind considered not running for another CA board term, but decided he would.
"I still think there's quite a bit of unfinished business that needs to be addressed that I'd like to be a part of," Schwind said, listing an aquatics master plan that will decide the future of Columbia's pools, construction of a new or renovated Hobbit's Glen Golf Course clubhouse, creation of a more vibrant park at Symphony Woods and proposed improvements to Lake Kittamaqundi.
"I'll just keep on pushing to try and get some of these projects completed," he said.
As for the village board elections, the three contested races are in Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge and Town Center.
In Harper's Choice, there are three two-year seats and four candidates: Martha Szollos and incumbents Claire Albert, Clare Brooks and Alicia Kong.
In Hickory Ridge, there are five one-year seats and six candidates: Robert O'Brien and incumbents John Bailey, Miles Coffman, Linda Hitzelberger, Tom Louden and Michelle Wood.
In Town Center, there are two two-year seats and three candidates: Mohan Ray and incumbents Helen Ruther and Linda Wengel.
The five villages without enough candidates are Dorsey's Search, Long Reach, Oakland Mills, Owen Brown and River Hill.
In Dorsey's Search, incumbents Diane Turner and Robert Sims are running for two-year terms. Current board member Courtney Samuels is not returning.
In Long Reach, incumbents Karen Hitcho and Josh Friedman are running for two-year terms. Current board member Matthew Watchinski is not returning.
In Owen Brown, incumbents Pearl Atkinson-Stewart and Katharyn Sunderman are running for two-year terms. Current board member Otis Cutler, who had been appointed last year to finish another board member's term, has decided not to return for his second year, according to village Manager Nancy Thomas.
The vacant spots will be filled by board appointments, according to the respective village managers.
In Oakland Mills, there are seven candidates for eight seats, each carrying a one-year term: Jervis Dorton, William Gray and incumbents Reginald Avery, Brian Donoughe, Phil Engelke, Kristin Huza and Margaret Mauro. Current board members Abby Hendrix, Julia McCready and Marcia White are not returning. The board can decide either to fill the vacant seat or stay with just seven members, according to village manager Sandy Cederbaum.
There will be two appointed seats in River Hill, according to village manager Susan Smith. There are three candidates for four seats, and another board member will soon be stepping down, she said.
Dengfeng Liu, Liyan Zhang and Incumbent Dipper Wettstein are running for two-year terms. Current board members Todd Harrison, Zachary Marks and Chao Wu are not returning. Cynthia Asoka, who has one year left in her term, will be leaving after April.
Kings Contrivance and Wilde Lake have as many candidates as seats.
In Kings Contrivance, incumbents Brian Dunn, Fred Niziol and Marguerite Walsh are seeking two-year terms.
In Wilde Lake, Joyce Ardo, Linda Odum, Rhoda Toback and incumbents Nancy McCord and Lawrence Schoen are seeking one-year terms. Current board members Bill Santos and Barbara Wright are not returning, while Regina Clay is running instead for the village's Columbia Association board seat.