The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella organization that unites more than 30 communities in the greater Towson area, elected 35-year-old Bryan Fischer, of Knettishall, as its new president Dec. 15.
Fischer, who replaces outgoing president Mike Ertel, of West Towson, will serve a one-year term. In the unanimous vote for a slate of officers, Ertel was elected the organization's co-vice president, along with John Rinehart, of Rodgers Forge.
GTCAA was founded in the 1970s to coordinate efforts between communities and Baltimore County officials, developers and other major parties in Towson. Its goals are now to provide community associations with education, assistance in response to development issues, and to present a united front on issues too complex or large to be handled effectively by an individual association, according to the group's website.
Recently, it has involved itself in the Southland Hills Improvement Association's effort to place the former Presbyterian Home of Maryland building — parts of which date to the 19th century — on the county's list of historic landmarks. The Presbyterian Home announced in May that it is selling the property after nearly 90 years in operation as a nursing home, sparking the community's efforts.
Fischer joined the group about four years ago. At the time, Knettishall, a small community surrounded by Loch Raven Village, was not a part of GTCCA and the Knettishall Community Association's membership in the group over the years had been on and off, Fischer said. He added that he saw the value of being part of a larger organization with a louder voice within Towson and so became Knettishall's delegate to the council.
Since then, Fischer has proven himself to be a quick learner, said Ed Kilcullen, of GTCCA member Towson Manor Village, who nominated Fischer for the position.
"He's filled in for Mike [Ertel] at meetings and done a really good job," Kilcullen said.
Kilcullen was the only member of the council's nomination committee, he said, adding that he nominated Fischer because of Fischer's knowledge of zoning codes and his strong interest in historic preservation.
Fischer is a member of the board of the Preservation Alliance of Baltimore County, which works to preserve historic structures in the county, and holds a bachelors degree in historic preservation from Mary Washington College, in Virginia, which has since changed its name to University of Mary Washington.
Rinehart said he believes Fischer will be valuable to GTCCA because of his knowledge of historic Towson.
Fischer is a proponent of the adaptive reuse of old buildings — or finding a new way to use an old building without destroying it.
That's what Fischer would like to see done with the Presbyterian Home and the Bel-Loc Diner, a Towson-area building its owner is trying to sell after 52 years in operation as a restaurant. The diner has not been sold and is still open for breakfast and lunch.
While a proposed Starbucks at the site would mean removing the structure, Fischer would like to see the building reused.
Fischer also became active in the community, he said, because he believes it is time for members of his generation to step up and participate in organizations such as GTCCA, which he called "bedrock of democracy."
Fischer said he hopes to sit down with the executive board soon to discuss the group's priorities for the coming year. He supports the efforts of the West Towson community in protesting a proposed Royal Farms gas station at the intersection of York Road and Bosley Avenue, he said.
"United we stand or divided we fall," he added.
GTCCA typically meets the third Thursday of each month at the Pickersgill Retirement Community.