10 things you didn’t know about the leader of Downtown Columbia Partnership

For Howard Magazine

Phillip Dodge, who is 41 and a Kentucky native, moved with his family to Columbia from Louisville in 1989. Before taking the reins in August of the Downtown Columbia Partnership, an organization that opened in 2014 with a goal of “making downtown a place where something is always happening,” he was director of food services for the Howard County Food Bank.

He recently shared some interesting aspects of his life with us, such as his flair for music and love of homebrewed beer.

1. Moving to Columbia changed his life.

“It was pretty much the first time I met anyone who wasn’t white and Catholic, and it was probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” Dodge says of his adopted hometown.

The emphasis on diversity at Columbia’s core is why he and his wife, Alison, chose to raise their two daughters, ages 8 and 10, in the planned city.

2. He and his wife run nonprofits.

Dodge met his wife in Spanish class at Oakland Mills High School in 1992. She is the executive director of the Maryland Association for Justice, a membership association for trial lawyers.

“It’s terribly nerdy, but after the girls have gone to bed, Alison and I will often have a glass of wine out on the deck, discussing the finer points of board governance, event planning and other nonprofit management topics,” he says.

3. Music is his first love.

He plays electric guitar and sings “by default” in a band called Artistic Differences. The group plays “dad rock,” which he defines as “edgy enough to be cool, but not enough to scare anyone away.” Band members grew up on The Cure and R.E.M. and then transitioned to Wilco, Spoon and Modest Mouse. They play at Hysteria Brewing Company in Columbia and other area venues.

4. Vacation is a trip to a beach.

When the Dodges plan vacations, they always choose a place where the family can interact with wildlife, especially reptiles and birds of prey. He swam with bonnethead sharks while snorkeling in the Florida Keys, and discovered an osprey nest in the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

5. He home-brews beer.

He enjoys making low-alcohol, “hoppy” beers as well as sour beers that are aged with oak chips.

He indulges in the pastime two or three times a year, though he says brewing a good, wood-aged beer can take between six months and two years.

6. He cooks and his wife does yardwork.

Dodge likes to say he can be found in the kitchen while his wife is outside mowing the lawn. Bringing home tomatoes from a farmers market and turning them into pasta sauce or smoked salsa using homegrown herbs is his favorite way to spend part of the weekend.

7. He yearns for an American craftsman-style bungalow.

This house design, which was popular from the 1890s to 1930s, is Dodge’s idea of the ideal home. He appreciates the houses’ practicality and beauty, and likes their big porches, woodworking and built-ins. There obviously aren’t any original examples in Columbia, so he’s putting this dream on hold for now.

8. His favorite book is “High Fidelity.”

Published in 1995 by Nick Hornby, the novel is “the ultimate read for a music geek,” he says. Another go-to is “Girlfriend in a Coma,” a 1998 book by Douglas Coupland. He describes it as part coming-of-age tale and part dystopian warning, and says each reading affects him differently.

9. He requires a “normal” work schedule.

If he could have been a chef or musician without working nights or weekends, he would have, but he’s “not cut out for that kind of lifestyle,” he says. Two of his heroes are Chef Alton Brown, who “combines science and technique to make cooking fun and technical,” and singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet.

10. He adores coffee.

Dodge can be found most mornings sipping iced coffee with a splash of skim milk. He owns a Dutch automatic drip coffeemaker called the Technivorm Moccamaster that he says “brews to the exactly right temperature to get the most flavor out of the beans.”

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