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Council sets goal of hiring president by mid-Jan.


Columbia Council members mapped out what they called an ambitious timetable last night for hiring a new Columbia Association president by the middle of January.

With its new executive search consultant offering advice, the council also discussed ways to involve Columbia Association staff members and the public in the selection of the next president.

The association is looking for a leader to oversee the homeowners association, which provides recreational and other services to the community's 87,000 residents. The last president, Deborah O. McCarty, resigned from the $130,000-a-year job in May after 20 months.

Mike Casey, a Chicago-based consultant with the search firm DMG-MAXIMUS, helped the council create a schedule for finding a replacement. The council voted last week to spend $17,500 for Casey's consulting fees; up to $8,500 for the firm's expenses; and up to $9,000 for the expenses of finalists who travel to Columbia for interviews.

With input from the council, Casey said he would draft a preliminary profile of the ideal candidate and present it to the council by its meeting Thursday. The proposal will be distributed to Columbia Association staff members and officials in Columbia's 10 villages, and also be posted on the association's Web site so the public can offer input. Responses are due Oct. 6. The council will finalize the profile by Oct. 12.

The profile will give potential candidates a clear idea of what the job entails, but Casey said the association does not have to wait until that is developed to start advertising the position. The council set a Nov. 10 application deadline for candidates.

The council agreed that Casey would make the first cut among applicants, reducing the pool to about 12 to 15. He will issue a progress report, summarizing the candidates who make the first cut, by Nov. 21.

Discussion of that stage of the process sparked pointed comments from council members, who disagreed over whether they should be provided with the names of every applicant, or just those who make the first cut. Councilmen Adam Rich of River Hill and Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge said that such information cannot be withheld from the council.

But Councilman Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance expressed concern that the names would be leaked to the press. He said that could threaten the jobs of applicants and discourage people from applying.

"I don't think the council can be trusted at this time" to keep the information confidential, Halpin said.

Halpin suggested that all of the names be made available to any council member who asks for them. The council would keep track of who had the information in the event of a leak.

After the field of candidates is reduced to 12 or 15, a council committee working with Casey will whittle that list to a smaller group, perhaps five to seven, by Nov. 30. Those semifinalists will be interviewed by the full council and senior Columbia Association staff the week of Dec. 11. The council will meet with staff members to discuss the interviews Dec. 16.

Two or three finalists will be asked to return for second interviews Jan. 6. On Jan. 7, the finalists will be presented to residents in a public forum, and residents will be asked to evaluate the candidates. Coffman also suggested that a panel of residents be formed to interview finalists.

The council hopes to decide on a candidate by Jan. 11.

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