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New Harper's Choice manager is 'problem solver'

New manager has background in membership organizations

By Luke Lavoie, llavoie@tribune.com

April 3, 2014

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If you ask longtime Harper's Choice village manager Wendy Tzuker about the job she retired from last month after 27 years, she'll tell you at the crux it's about solving problems.

If that's the case, then Tzuker's replacement, Town Center resident Steve Ingley, is the right man to replace her, according to his past colleagues.

"Steve would identify a problem before it became a problem, and he would already have a set of possible solutions," said Kurt Frisz, president of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, where Ingley was employed as executive director until accepting the job at Harper's Choice's Community Association.

In a separate interview, Richard Kiekbusch, who served as president of the American Jail Association when Ingley was executive director, echoed Frisz without prompting.

"Steve is really good at anticipating needs and issues," said Kiekbusch, who also is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

"He managed to stay ahead of things, which was really helpful."

Ingley, 50, said his experience in problem solving, financial management and personnel management are the aspects of his previous posts that will translate the best to his new job. But after that, he admits his 27 years working at AJA and ALEA was a different experience than what's in store for him in Harper's Choice.

"[At] the organizations I've worked with in the past, there is a dues-paying membership," said Ingley, who started on March 24. "Here we aren't really dealing with a membership, we are dealing with residents and people who work in this community. It's a huge difference."

And while such a shift may be a concern to some, Ingley said he's excited for the challenge of something different and new.

"It's a 180-degree turn in terms of what the organization does, and that was very appealing to me on a personal level," he said.

Ingley added that getting an opportunity to work in the community he has lived in since 1989 was also a big factor in his decision.

"That's something I've never really had the time to do in the past," he said. "I'm really looking forward to this, it's exciting."

And of course, there's the commute factor as well. Ingley said for the past 27 years he's been driving between 80 and 120 miles round trip on a daily basis commuting to Hagerstown for AJA and Frederick for ALEA.

"I've gone from 120 miles round trip to 5 miles round trip," he said. "I'm getting too old for that."

In addition to having made his home in the Columbia area for many years, Ingley said he had a special connection to the community while growing up in Montgomery County.

"My uncle was one of the original developers," he said. "When I was a kid, we would come up on the job site and would spend Fourth of July's at the [Columbia] Mall. My roots here do go back a long way."

It's clear Ingley has an understanding of Columbia's past and the current challenges it faces as it approaches its 50th birthday.

"We are seeing a lot of change coming, and I think it's very exciting and very important," he said.

While Ingley is knowledgeable about the current renaissance in Columbia — which includes the ongoing renovation's to the village center in Wilde Lake, Howard County government's plans to redevelop the village center in Long Reach and the long-term revitalization plans in downtown — he said this week it would be presumptuous to speculate about the future of Harper's Choice, given that's he's only been on the job for less than two weeks.

Ingley said, so far, his experience has been "baptism by fire," as he has been thrown into the middle of elections — there are contested elections for the association Board of Directors and for Columbia Council representative — and also in the midst of filing end-of-fiscal-year reports.

"It is definitely a lot, but it's a good challenge, and exactly what I was hoping for in terms of change," he said.