Amidst the conflict between the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors and the CA President and CEO, Ms. Lakey Boyd, dozens of members of the community have spoken in support of Ms. Boyd in an attempt to convince the CA Board to retain her in her role and hundreds more have signed a petition to the same end. This article summarizes the various reasons people identified to justify their support of Ms. Boyd and argue in favor of retaining her as CA CEO. This article is intended to help people new to this issue to understand why there is widespread support for Ms. Boyd in the community. This article complements a previous article that explained the underlying cause of the conflict between the majority of the board and Ms. Boyd.
Ms. Boyd's support has come from across Columbia including residents, CA employees, business owners, and non-profit leaders who have praised various aspects of Ms. Boyd's service to the community in ways that distinguish her from her predecessors. These individuals have identified at least ten reasons the community has expressed support for Ms. Boyd:
Diversity and Inclusion
Environment and Sustainability
Cost of Separation
There is overlap between some of these reasons and they are not mutually exclusive.
Shortly into her tenure, Ms. Boyd led a reorganization to streamline CA. The revamped organizational structure has placed the bulk of CA staff into three departments: Administrative Services (which handles most of the "behind the curtain" functions of CA such as IT, HR, and finance), Community Programs and Services (which essentially provides CA's interactive services: sports, aquatics, art center, archives, etc.), and Community Operations (which essentially maintains the infrastructure of CA: open space, facilities, land, event support). Streamlining organizations helps reduce or avoid administrative bloat and fosters collaboration between complementary functions. CA's reorganization demonstrates Ms. Boyd is modernizing CA to more effectively and efficiently serve the community.
While most residents don't pay attention to its finances, prudently managing the budget is key to ensuring the community gets the optimal return on HOA and memberships fees we pay. CA beat its budget projections by several million dollars after Ms. Boyd's first full fiscal year and, so far, is on track to do the same in her second full fiscal year. Additionally, CA received an unqualified "clean" independent audit (the best possible rating) for its FY 2022 financial statements.
Diversity & Inclusion
Ms. Boyd has placed renewed emphasis on CA's efforts to promote diversity and inclusion both within the organization and in the community. Internal to CA, she has increased the diversity in CA's senior leadership team, implemented diversity and inclusion training for CA's staff, and expanded CA's minority business enterprise program to ensure CA's suppliers and vendors are representative of Columbia's diversity. Within the community, among other initiatives, CA has reinvigorated its "Points Program" (which incentivizes scholastic achievement by rewarding students from participating HCPSS schools enrolled in the Free and Reduced Meals program with free CA memberships) and increased the diversity of programming and CA's Lakefront Live series of free events.
Respect for Ms. Boyd is widespread throughout CA's staff and is demonstrated by the dozens of employees who have spoken out in support of Ms. Boyd. From the outside, the reasons for the staff's appreciation of Ms. Boyd is not entirely clear although likely includes her habit of regularly approaching and thanking employees as well as her role in providing backpay to CA employees who worked at reduced wages throughout the pandemic in order to make them whole.
In the community, Ms. Boyd has been a visible face of CA (in accordance with the board of directors guidance). She has represented CA at numerous community events (e.g. Howard County's Veteran's Day parade and celebration) and was selected as a member of the Leadership Howard County Premier Program Class of 2023.
Ms. Boyd has prioritized building and maintaining partnerships with numerous organizations throughout the community. She has established partnerships with the county library system, community college, schools, and local nonprofits. She has continued cooperation with established partners such as Inner Arbor Trust. And, unlike her predecessors, Ms. Boyd has made a point of attending the meetings of Columbia's ten village associations and expanded cooperation with them. These partnerships build trust in CA and deliver value to the community through increased cooperation between complementary organizations.
Environment & Sustainability
During Ms. Boyd's tenure, CA has emphasized its role in protecting the environment. CA has added electric vehicles to its fleet, installed new electric charging stations at its facilities, and supported the planting of natural riparian buffers near Wilde Lake. CA altered the way excess village cash is handled by ensuring that any excess village cash is reinvested in environmental projects within the respective village. Over the past year, CA organized and executed fifteen environmentally-focused community events involving nearly 600 participants; the events included Stream Waders, Weed Warriors, stream clean-up, tree plantings, and community solar cooperative meetings. Additionally, the draft FY 2024 budget recently prepared by staff places the highest priority on maintaining and improving open space.
Development is one of the most impactful and contentious issues facing Columbia. While development is under the control of the county and not CA, CA can influence the ongoing update to the General Plan. Among her credentials, Ms. Boyd has certifications in planning and economic development and has helped dozens of communities navigate the challenges and opportunities associated with development. Ultimately, CA's stance regarding development is up to the board of directors but, regardless of the position the board wants to take, their input can be enhanced by taking advantage of Ms. Boyd's relevant experience and knowledge.
Cost of Separation
Several residents have also voiced support for Ms. Boyd based solely on the cost that her termination would impose on the community. Through November 2022, the CA Board had spent $42,000 on outside legal counsel in their conflict with Ms. Boyd. Terminating Ms. Boyd without cause would require an expensive severance - speculated to equal $500,000 - and terminating her with cause would almost certainly result in a lawsuit that could cost CA even more money.
Ms. Boyd's separation could have other costs that are impossible to quantify. Specifically, the controversial nature of Ms. Boyd's departure would likely impact the candidate pool for her potential replacement and make recruiting leaders to CA more difficult in the future due to reputational damage. There could also be morale impacts on staff who may be concerned about their own job security and the strategic direction provided by the board of directors.
CA has renewed its offering of community events. There were over 50 nights of free events during its Lakefront Live series. During the holidays and in partnership with Downtown Columbia Partnership, CA hosted Festive Fridays at the lakefront. CA also implemented an effort to provide free exercise and yoga classes outside in various parts of Columbia. These efforts demonstrate Ms. Boyd's commitment to improving the quality of life for residents.
Data Driven Decision-making
Under Ms. Boyd's leadership, CA has emphasized data driven decision making and modernized many CA systems in support of this. Examples include a new Arc GIS tool to improve land management and a CRM system to enhance service to CA's many customers. Additionally, CA has had multiple accomplishments in data protection that will mitigate the risk to CA from criminal actors (e.g. organizations like CA are prime targets for ransomware attacks). While these efforts aren't recognizable to most community members, they demonstrate Ms. Boyd's focus on modernizing CA to deliver maximum value to residents.
The ten reasons above only represent the arguments made by residents and do not summarize everything Ms. Boyd has accomplished. These descriptions focus on how Ms. Boyd has distinguished herself from her predecessors, indicate how she may be difficult to replace, and credit the board members who hired her in the first place. These highlights do not address her maintenance of the great services CA has consistently provided the community for several years (pools, paths, gyms, etc.). These accomplishments are not Ms. Boyd's alone - CA has hundreds of employees who share in the credit; however, the visible leadership Ms. Boyd has shown in these areas does differentiate her from predecessors.
Additionally, it is important to note that the conflict between Ms. Boyd and the majority of the board is not related to any of Ms. Boyd's efforts described above as explained in previous The Merriweather Post articles and confirmed subsequently by multiple CA board members. For example, Dick Boulton (Dorsey Search; who is not supportive of Ms. Boyd) stated "Most of the contention regards the relationship between the CA Board and the current President/CEO." Andy Stack (Owen Brown; who is supportive of Ms. Boyd) explained "the majority of the current CA Board and Lakey do not get along." As these board members indicate, the Board is making its decision about Ms. Boyd regardless of her positive contributions to the community. Instead, the Board is considering firing Ms. Boyd solely because of their interpersonal conflict.
About the author: Michael Golibersuch is a Columbia resident and believes increased awareness of CA Board activities can benefit the community. He appreciates the time all CA board members spend volunteering on behalf of a community they love. It brings him no pleasure to publicly highlight anyone’s shortcomings; however, he believes his neighbors deserve to know whether their representatives are effectively serving them. He does not believe that being a poor board member reflects poorly on an individual’s character and he encourages everyone to be kind to all their neighbors. His participation in this effort does not indicate he agrees with all opinions expressed in The Merriweather Post.