Columbia Election Candidate: Harry Schwarz

This is one in a series of submitted candidate profiles for the Columbia Association Elections. 

The Columbia Association will hold elections on Saturday, April 26. During the elections, Columbia residents who pay the Columbia Association assessed fee can vote in their respective village for their village's representative to the 10-member Columbia Council, which becomes the 10-member Board of Directors.

Each village hosts its own election. This year, there are only three contested races for the 10-member board. Those races are in Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge and Town Center.

Each candidate was submitted the same list of questions and request for information. The responses that follow were submitted by each of the candidates.

Harry Schwarz (Hickory Ridge)

Age: 62

Address: 11600 block of Dark Fire Way

Occupation: Management Advisory Services to nonprofit organizations; Master of Social Work in community planning

Work Experience: Currently Partner, bearsolutions LLC; Previously Associate Vice-President, Tai Sophia Institute (now Maryland University for Integrative Health); Almost 20 years working in psychiatric rehabilitation, including President/CEO, Transitional Living Council of Central Maryland (now part of Sheppard Pratt Health Systems)

Volunteer Experience: Former Board Chair, Association of Community Services of Howard County; Peer Reviewer, Standards for Excellence Program, Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations: Committee Member, Boy Scout Troop 75, Christ Presbyterian Church; Board Member, Thunder Hill Park Alliance; Committee Chairman, Cub Scout Pack 720, Hickory Ridge Village; Steering Committee, Catholic Community at Relay; Vice-President for Governmental Affairs, Maryland Association of Psychiatric Support Services (now Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland)

Seat sought: Hickory Ridge (one-year term)

Q: What made you decide to run for election to the Columbia Association Board of Directors?

Having lived in Columbia for nearly 14 years, it is maddening to see so few people turn out for Village elections and the same people running for election year after year. The People Tree of Columbia represents for me the image of all of us working together for the common good. While I honor the commitment of voters and elected officials who participate, more of us need to get involved to assure that our community remains strong.

Rather than continuing to complain about it, I determined that I needed to step up and be part of the solution. As a member of the Columbia Association Board, I will work to improve community engagement with CA through social media, webcasts and cable broadcasts of board and committee meetings, and implementation of online voting to improve election turnout and broaden representation.

Q: What qualities do you possess that would make you a good board member?

I am an attentive listener and an effective communicator, and can always find the means to build consensus. I began my career as a mission-driven Social Worker and, in the course of managing a Baltimore psychiatric rehabilitation program, I learned how to be a business man. I will bring to the board a lifetime of experience with nonprofit organizations and board service. Most of all, I love Columbia.

Q: Identify, in your mind, the two most pressing issues facing the Columbia Association right now? Explain why you chose these and expound on possible solutions.

Columbia is experiencing a Renaissance. In the spirit of [Columbia founder] Jim Rouse, planners are at work, government is providing direction, investors are eager to build, nonprofits are advocating and providing community services. We need to optimize this collective energy by building partnerships and coordinating planning. The Downtown Columbia Plan needs to be expanded to include the revitalization of our village centers and overall infrastructure needs of our city, including, walk/bike-ability, mass transit, and environmental stewardship.

We need to honor Columbia's core values to embrace the diversity among us and the need we all have for self-sufficiency. And the Columbia Association must take the lead to promote wellness and vitality and foster people's access to nature, art and culture as critical to our spiritual wellness.

Q: If elected, what do you hope to help accomplish while on the board?

I intend to make certain the board attends to its core responsibilities, which are to review CA policy and budget matters, develop strategic initiatives, address community issues and oversee the CA president. We need to identify the common values and goals among us and use that to build consensus. And we need to avoid the natural tendency of boards to micromanage operations or supervise professional staff. I will also assist CA to develop the partnerships with other stakeholders necessary to meet our strategic goals and realize our vision.

Q: Why should someone vote for you?

As someone who loves Columbia and has the background and experience that can be valuable at this critical stage in Columbia's growth, I commit myself to providing leadership for a renewed vision of Columbia that nurtures our spirit and supports our aspirations.

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