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Tzuker 'enjoyed ride' as village manager

By Luke Lavoie, llavoie@tribune.com

6:00 AM EDT, April 3, 2014

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Retired Harper's Choice Village manager Wendy Tzuker said if she could give one piece of advice to new manager Steve Ingley, it would be to "enjoy the ride."

"It really is fun," Tzuker said of her position as village manager of the Harper's Choice Community Association, which she held for 27 years before retiring on March 20.

"What makes Harper's Choice special is that I believe [Columbia founder Jim] Rouse's vision worked the best here. ... It's just a really cool vibe here."

Tzuker points to the subsidized housing in the village, and that it also boasts some of the most expensive houses as well. She touted the Longfellow Parade, the longest-running Independence Day parade in Howard County that is completely organized by the neighborhood.

"All I do is buy candy for the village board to hand to the kids," she said. "It's not ours [the community association's], it's the community's."

It's that kind of community spirit that Tzuker said she is going to miss the most.

"I liked working for my community," she said. "Working with the people of the community, for the community."

Tzuker, 66, moved to the village of Long Reach in 1973 with her husband, Harvey, after taking a bus tour of Columbia in 1969 while visiting friends in Baltimore County. She got her start working as a village manager in Dorsey's Search in the mid-80s. In 1987, she said she saw an ad in the Columbia Flier for an opening as the village manager in Harper's Choice and applied.

"I applied never dreaming I'd find my life's passion in that job," Tzuker said.

Tzuker said the job, just like Columbia, has changed. The biggest change has come in the way people communicate, Tzuker said, referring to technology.

"Advocacy and dissemination of information have always been one of the two pillars of what we do here," Tzuker said. "But the modes of dissemination have changed. ... People expect more communication now, and they expect it instantly and differently. They are not going to seek it out, they want it in their inboxes."

She also said there has been a shift in activity around Kahler Hall, the community building located near the village center. In the early years, she remembers day classes were popular, primarily among women, and that the village offered things like calligraphy, cake decorating. Now, Tzuker said the building is used for more "lifetime events," and the bulk of activity has shifted to the evenings.

Throughout it all, though, Tzuker said the role of the community association has remained consistent.

"We are still an institution in place for when people need us," she said. "You could live here 25 years and never need us."

Occasionally, Tzuker said she'd get a call from longtime residents who didn't know where the association was or what it did. She said those calls used to disappoint her, until one day she realized it could be seen as a good thing.

"I used to think, 'boy, I failed, because they didn't know we were here,' " she said. "But then I thought, 'I didn't fail.' We succeeded because they never needed us. We took care of what they needed before they needed it."