Diplomacy Skills of Towson Business Group’s New President to be Tested
Clark Looks to Build Bridge to Neighborhood Group
By James Mosher
Daily Record Business Writer
After 10 years on the Greater Towson Committee Inc.’s board of directors, C. William ‘Bud’ Clark, above, a Towson lawyer, took over as president of the economic development group earlier this summer, replacing Robert E. Latshaw Jr.
The new president of the Greater Towson Committee Inc. says he wants to turn old rivals into new friends. He’s going to get plenty of practice during the next year.
First, there is the matter of taming the business association’s lively board. Equally challenging will be getting past differences with neighborhood groups, particularly the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations Inc., on development issues in the Baltimore County seat.
C. William “Bud” Clark began his one-year term June 29, taking over from the gregarious Robert E. Latshaw Jr. Clark is quietly stepping into the arena, brandishing a style noticeably different from Latshaw’s.
Cynthia W. Bledsoe, who assists Clark as the committee’s part-time executive director, points to difficulties Clark faces when she diplomatically refers to the board as “active.”
“At times it has been a chore to arrive at consensus,” said Clark, who has been a board member for 10 years. “Some people want to go in several directions at once. I’m going to work at better developing consensus.”
Clark served as executive vice president under Latshaw, who decided against another term due to time constraints. The new president paid tribute to his predecessor.
“The organization became much more viable thanks to Bob,” Clark said. “He expended an enormous amount of effort.”
Asked if Latshaw, a colorful real estate broker, remains active in committee business, Clark said “Oh, yes” with a smile and a nod.
Clark will get to test his brand of personal diplomacy when he meets with the leadership of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations in coming months. The committee and the GTCCA have been at odds over housing Towson University students in the Towson Circle III project. Clark said he’s looking forward to finding things the groups can collaborate on.
“That’s just one issue,” Clark, a lawyer at the Towson-based firm of Nolan, Plumhoff & Williams, said of the controversy over housing up to 600 students in the project near the town center, which the committee supports.
Clark may find a receptive audience for two reasons. Heat over the Circle III project cooled considerably when the university last week recently backed off the idea. Another reason is his positive relationship with Judy Gregory, GTCCA’s president. Clark once represented a group Gregory was involved in during a zoning dispute. The two are also neighbors and on good terms, Gregory said.
GTCCA members are encouraged to become active participants in the committee’s quarterly town hall meetings, Clark said. Clark is also trying to arrange a private meeting with GTCCA leaders.
Gregory said she plans on attending a town hall event (the next is scheduled for September). Areas of common interest do exist, traffic chief among them, she said.
Her group’s view of how Towson is evolving and warnings against overcrowding will be raised during meetings with Clark, Gregory said.
“We’re not against development,” she said. “We’re for smart development.”
Pointing out there are five major developments going on in Towson, Gregory speculated the town may be traveling too fast in the economic development lane. Still, she’s not calling for moratoriums, even on Towson University, which plans on adding 7,000 students over the next 10 years.
“We’re not against Towson U. growing as a school as long as they have the infrastructure to handle it,” she said. “That means things like proper traffic flows and having enough dorms.
“We know the state has said they want the university to grow but are the funds and the other stuff there to back it up?”
GTCCA represents 50,000 residents through its 35 member associations. Most of the committee’s board members are managers or owners of large businesses. Clark denies the committee is beholden to those commercial interests.
“Our positions tend to reflect the concerns of property owners rather than the other way around,” he said. “But we definitely take community concerns into account.”
The committee’s main job has been to watch over “big-picture” issues that aren’t that exciting to the average person. Expect the dull vigil to continue, Clark said.
“We pay a lot of attention to infrastructure, sewer connections, signage and zoning,” he said. “Not necessarily sexy issues but we need to keep an eye on them because of their importance to economic development.”
Clark expects to see a long-awaited redevelopment plan for the struggling Towson Commons mall during his term as president. Harvey S. Brooks Jr., the mall’s manager, sits on the committee’s board and chairs its transportation panel.
“I expect to see a plan sooner rather than later,” Clark said.
A measure passed by the county C\council changing zoning rules for building setbacks will be helpful to the rebirth of Towson Commons as well as other property development, Clark said. He applauded the efforts of Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, who sponsored the bill.
“The county council has been very attuned,” the president said. “I look forward to witnessing the revitalization that will flow from this.”