If there's a phrase that captures 1994 for the Howard County record books, it may be "growing pains."
Although the rapid development of the 1980s has slowed, the county spent the past year struggling to adapt to an increased -- and still increasing -- number of people, homes and businesses.
"I think that the rate of growth was the main issue in the county four or five years ago," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "Now, I think we are trying to catch up to the county's growth in the 1980s."
Recent political events appear to bear that out. The issue of growth dominated the fall campaign for county executive. Meanwhile, a group of residents in Columbia -- believing that their community has outgrown its homeowner-association style of government -- began a drive for incorporation.
The school system, meanwhile, was forced to deal with the county's population explosion by squeezing too many students into too few schools, to the chagrin of students and teachers alike.
In the area of crime, car theft remained a serious problem, although the county remained free of much of the violence that has troubled its suburban neighbors.
And as the business community learned, growth doesn't always mean across-the-board economic expansion. While the retail industry gained strength with the rapid development of Snowden Square, the county suffered a setback when Coca-Cola Enterprises backed off its plan to build a $200 million bottling plant that would have created 500 jobs.
It was a year that began with icy roads and frozen pipes and ended with unseasonably warm temperatures. And it was a year with its share of local oddities, from the discovery of a mass animal grave in Elkridge to the selection of a Woodbine cow as a national agricultural pinup.
Here are a few of the highlights.
After stunning the Democratic es-tablishment with her primary election victory, Susan B. Gray made slow growth the centerpiece of her campaign for county executive. Ms. Gray was defeated nearly 2-to-1 by Mr. Ecker, the popular incumbent.
Nevertheless, Ms. Gray claimed partial victory on election night after passage of Question B, a referendum she initiated that will subject most local zoning decisions to popular vote.
Countywide, candidates rode the GOP tidal wave that swept the rest of the country, resulting in the first Republican-controlled County Council.
Voters also elected the county's first new state's attorney in 16 years, as Republican Marna McLendon replaced retiring Democrat William R. Hymes.
Six weeks later, Ms. McLendon fired six of the office's 22 prosecutors and demoted two others.
The county's delegation to the state legislature gained some new faces, but two notable additions, both Democrats, were not new at all. Former County Executive Elizabeth Bobo took a seat in the House of Delegates, while former state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer returned to the Senate.
The nastiest campaign was fought between two delegates -- Martin G. Madden and Virginia M. Thomas -- who ran for the same state Senate seat. Ms. Thomas upset the incumbent, Sen. Thomas H. Yeager, in the Democratic primary, but lost to Mr. Madden, the Republican, in a close election.
With the departure of Baltimore County's Ellen R. Sauerbrey from the state legislature, Howard County gained a larger voice in the state Republican party when Del. Robert H. Kittleman was elected to replace her as House minority leader.
In Columbia, dissatisfaction with the operation of the Columbia Association sparked a movement to turn the community into what would become the state's second-largest city, with 80,000 residents.
"What served Columbia in the past quarter-century won't serve in times to come. It defies logic," declared James V. Clark, the chairman of the incorporation movement, whose supporters want a referendum on the issue. Neither the Columbia Association nor the Columbia Council has expressed support for the movement.
One of peaceful Howard County's most notable crimes last year was neither a homicide nor even a car theft: It was the case of the state's most-wanted "deadbeat dad."
After a two-year investigation, Charles Anthony Farace, 43, was arrested outside his Woodlawn home in August on charges related to delinquency on more than $48,000 in child support payments to his Howard County ex-wife.
Moments after Mr. Farace was sentenced to six months in jail last month, his 20-year-old son was arrested on charges related to missed child support payments for his own 2-year-old daughter.
As for violent crime, the county logged four homicides -- the same number as in 1993.
In March, police charged Dennis Donald Ingram, 33, of Laurel in the bludgeoning death of 25-year-old James Wayne Landon Jr. of Laurel, whose body was found in the woods near the Patuxent River.
In June, Marcos Divera Ramirez, 27, of Hyattsville was charged in the killing of Shelton Thigpen, 74, of Silver Spring, who was found strangled in a Jessup motel.
An apparent domestic dispute involving a Russian immigrant couple led to the county's third homicide of 1994. In September, Tatyana Kogan, 26, was charged with stabbing her boyfriend, Andrei Gordon, in the chest with a steak knife inside their Village of Wilde Lake townhouse while the woman's 4-year-old daughter was upstairs.
The fourth homicide sparked a nationwide search for Daniel Scott Harney, 40, of Owings Mills. The Westinghouse Corp. employee and his two young sons have been missing since his estranged wife, Shirley Scott Harney, 41, and a male friend were shot in her Ellicott City home Monday night.
The county's most persistent crime problem in 1994 remained the same as in 1993: car theft.
Through the first nine months of 1994, the county was on pace to record more than three car thefts a day -- a 14.6 increase over 1993. And, although year-end statistics are not yet available, police say the trend appeared to continue through the final quarter.
Juvenile joy-riders accounted for most of the thefts, including 20 vehicles stolen last winter by a group of youths whom police labeled the Low Riders club.
Coca-Cola Enterprises' August declaration that Howard County wasn't "it" topped the local business news in 1994.
The bottling company's decision to indefinitely delay building a $200 million plant in Dorsey was a bitter disappointment for the county, which had agreed to give the company significant concessions to secure the expected 500 jobs and $4 million in new tax revenue.
On the brighter side, retail business at Snowden Square, a regional shopping center, exploded in 1994, as the chains Best Buy and Zany Brainy were added to the already large collection of discount stores, including BJ's Wholesale Club, Marshall's and Service Merchandise.
To the relief of many in the North Laurel area, an Anne Arundel County hearing officer rejected a bid by the Washington Redskins to build a new football stadium in Laurel. Area residents had feared the increased traffic and noise on game days.
On the personnel front, Mathias J. DeVito, the man who has led the Rouse Co. to success in commercial property over the last 15 years, announced his retirement as chief executive officer, effective next month. Mr. DeVito will leave the daily operations of the company -- which boasted record earnings and more than $4.5 billion in assets last year -- but will remain as chairman.
Population growth remained the school system's largest problem.
With students packed into crowded schools, officials have taken a "grin and bear it" approach until 1996, when new schools are scheduled to open and the student population is redistricted.
Despite the overcrowding, the county's school system remained among the Maryland's best, scoring at or near the top in all the state's standardized tests.
The year marked the end of an era for Columbia, when its first high school -- Wilde Lake -- was closed and razed. School officials decided that the $20 million demolition and construction of a new structure would be simpler and cheaper than trying to renovate the 23-year-old building.
The November election brought the retirement of two long-time school board members -- Deborah D. Kendig and Dana Hanna. Replacing them were Stephen Bounds and Karen Campbell, who had served on the board previously.
Violence and security issues also were worries in the school system last year.
A series of brawls during and after wrestling matches and basketball games -- including a vicious assault by several Oakland Mills boys basketball players on a Mount Hebron assistant coach -- prompted the school board to adopt a policy mandating harsh punishment for student attacks on coaches.
In September, a Howard High School teacher claimed to have been stabbed and robbed in an early-morning attack inside her school office -- prompting worried parents and administrators to review security before and after school. It later was disclosed that the teacher had stabbed herself.
Odds and ends
Among the other notable events and curiosities that took place last year:
* Maple Dell High Kick Sweet Pea -- a deceased Woodbine cow -- in October became a national figure with the publication of a poster that included her as the perfect example of the Ayrshire breed.
* To the delight of children throughout the county, the Enchanted Forest theme park reopened in Ellicott City in May. The 6-acre park was a popular attraction in the 1960s and 1970s, but fell into disrepair and was closed in 1986.
* Land surveyors made a gruesome discovery in Elkridge -- a series of shallow graves containing hundreds of dead animals. An Elkridge contractor eventually was charged with illegal dumping.
* A Howard County man made national headlines when he was fired from his job as a White House usher -- the first person to be fired in the 103-year history of the office. Christopher Beauregard Emery, who apparently lost his apolitical position for political reasons, had been a behind-the-scenes aide to first families for eight years.
* The county solved the mystery of the hundreds of drums of toxic waste discovered at the Carr's Mill Landfill in Woodbine. Investigators found that a former county supervisor permitted the illegal dumping in 1976. Contaminated ground water will take decades to treat.
* J.K.'s Pub -- the closest thing in Columbia to a neighborhood pub -- was sold to a Columbia couple in December, preserving the Wilde Lake village tavern.
* A Glen Burnie man died at the Savage Rapids -- a popular but illegal swimming hole along the Little Patuxent River -- after he dived or fell into the water early one morning and cracked his skull on a rock.
* Randy Christopher Sands -- known throughout the county as "Walkin' Randy" for his constant presence along county roads -- was found dead on Valentine's Day in his Columbia apartment.
* Edward E. Suarez Jr. -- called "The Dive Monster" by his friends -- died in July while doing what he loved best, in a cave diving accident in Bakerton, W. Va.
* Ellicott City native Richard "Ric" Burkitt Ryder reached theatrical heights in July, starring in the Broadway production of "Blood Brothers."
* Just a day after being buried waist-high in tons of dirt, a fortunate Frederick County man in April walked out of the hospital. His ordeal in a deep ditch near a West Friendship home lasted six hours.
* A former Columbia girl reached a $4.1 million out-of-court settlement with an obstetrician in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The girl was born prematurely and with cerebral palsy, but the doctor said he did nothing wrong and settled to save time and money.
* Howard County in September finally opened the $25 million, two-mile western leg of Route 100, in the works for 25 years. But the segment between U.S. 29 and Route 104 will not provide a high-speed connection to Interstate 95 until 1999.