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Former Reston CEO named Columbia Association president

Milton Matthews, the former chief executive officer of the Reston (Va.) Association, has been named president of the Columbia Association, the organization announced Friday. 

Matthews signed a two-year contract and will make a base salary of $200,000 and be eligible for a bonus of up to 7.5 percent of his salary. As part of his contract, Matthews will have to relocate to Columbia from Rockville, Md., where he currently resides.

“I have known for a long time that Columbia is a special place,” Matthews said in a statement released May 2. “Columbia Association has a reputation for providing quality, innovative and responsive services and programs, and I am honored to have been chosen to be a part of this exceptional organization. I look forward to working with the CA Board of Directors and the staff at CA and the 10 villages, and becoming involved with the Columbia community and, in general, Howard County.”

Matthews will start on June 2 and replace Phil Nelson, who served as CA president for  five years. Nelson stepped down on April 30 after it was announced earlier this year that the board voted not to renew his contract, saying he was not visible enough in the community.

CA's chief financial officer, Susan Krabbe, was named interim president and will serve until Matthews begins. 

Andy Stack, chairman of CA's Board of Directors, which made the hire, said Matthews' experience with the Reston Association -- an organization similar to CA that serves Reston, Va. -- was a factor.

“In a sense, it's very similar to the Columbia Association. ... The board was very impressed with his ability to run the Reston Association,” Stack said in an interview.

Stack said Matthews is familiar with the Columbia Association through his work with Reston and that having that background was “very positive.” He added that Matthews is “very outgoing,” and that he impressed the board during the interview process.

“He was very involved with the general public of Reston, and that appealed to us,” Stack said.

Stack said Matthews was one of two finalists, but would not reveal the other candidate other than to say it was not a current CA employee. He did say internal candidates were considered, but would not specify whom. 

The Columbia Association is a $65 million mega-homeowner's association that operates Columbia's open space, outdoor pools, pathways and fitness facilities.

It collects part of its income from a taxlike assessment from property owners within the majority of Columbia — a community of 100,000. CA is governed by a 10-member board of directors made up of elected representatives from each of the city's 10 villages, which are individual organized neighborhood associations.

In the 2009 search for a president, Matthews, who was then chief executive offficer at Reston, was one of three finalists, along with Nelson and current CA Vice President Rob Goldman.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Matthews served as CEO of the Reston Association from 2004 to 2013. According to the Reston Association's website, Matthews stepped down in February 2013 to relocate to Rockville because his wife, Barbara Burns Matthews, was named city manager of the Montgomery County community.

The Reston Association is an organization that serves 65,000 residents in the planned community of Reston. Like the Columbia Association, the Reston Association assessed a fee to residents who lived in the community.

The hiring process for Nelson’s replacement began in January, when the board announced Nelson's contract would not be renewed. The executive search firm DHR Inc., which was used in the 2009 process, assisted in the search.

A selection committee -- composed of Stack, members of CA's audit committee, which includes CA board members Michael Cornell, Cindy Coyle and Gregg Schwind, as well as residents James Young and Edward Berman -- was also involved.

In 2009, CA had a 20-person search committee and held a series of public meetings, including meet-and-greets with the three finalists. At those meeting, which Matthews attended as one of three finalists, residents got to ask questions and hear from the candidates. 

Because of a self-imposed deadline of April 30, the board decided to expedite the process and held no public meetings. 

Stack said CA is planning some events where Matthews can meet the community, but that no dates have been set.

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