Thirty years have gone by since the Howard County Poetry and Literary Society, also known as HoCoPoLitSo, got its start as a friendly neighborhood literary salon.

Founder, scholar and translator Ellen Conroy Kennedy has been there every step of the way, guiding the organization through poetry readings and literary festivals as its executive director -- and running it devotedly from the book-lined Columbia home she shares with her husband, Padraic M. Kennedy. Now she will retire.

Kennedy will be honored at HoCoPoLitSo's 30th anniversary celebration, planned for Nov. 14 at Howard Community College. Kennedy won't be cutting her ties with the society, however. She plans to continue working on her long-term project, "The Writing Life," an award-winning cable television series about writers and their craft.

"I don't expect to be idle, but I won't have to deal with quite so much."

To assure that HoCoPoLitSo remains a vital part of the county's cultural life, the organization will be joining forces with Howard Community College, says David H. Barrett, chairman of HoCoPoLitSo's board.

The offices of HoCoPoLitSo will be moving to the college. Tara Hart, professor of English and world languages at HCC, will become the organization's managing director. The college has long collaborated on many of HoCoPoLitSo's programs, and Barrett foresees even more cooperation in the future.

"There are so many possibilities with this new affiliation," said Barrett. "We're looking forward to the challenge."

A Shot at Flu Vaccine

Howard residents 65 and older have a chance to receive a flu shot during an upcoming vaccine clinic sponsored by the county health department on Saturday at Reservoir High School.

The clinic will start at 9 a.m. and administer shots on a first-come, first-serve basis, said county Health Officer Penny Borenstein. Health officials will require proof of residency and age, and charge $10 a shot.

Two more clinics will be held Nov. 5 and 12 for the elderly, adults with serious and chronic medical conditions and pregnant women, Borenstein said. Further information about those clinics will be available online at www.hchealth.org. Whether there will be more clinics after Nov. 12 depends on the federal government's redistribution of remaining vaccine supplies, Borenstein said.

County Council's Hot Seat

The Republican vacancy on the Howard County Council has drawn interest from past office holders, activists and former candidates.

Howard M. Rensin, chairman of the Howard County Republican Party, said the party will accept statements of interest until Monday. The party's central committee will meet Nov. 10 to interview candidates to complete the term of Allan H. Kittleman, who resigned Oct. 21 to take his father's seat in the Maryland General Assembly. Robert H. Kittleman, 78, a Republican state senator representing Howard and Montgomery counties, died of leukemia Sept. 11.

The District 5 seat includes the western part of the county, some of its southern portion and the western reaches of the Ellicott City community. Rensin said that a majority of the registered voters in the district are Republican and that the party feels "very comfortable" about winning the seat again when it comes up for election in 2006.

Those who have expressed interest in the appointment include Charles Feaga, who served on the council from 1986 to 1998; Steven H. Adler, who ran for county executive in 2002; Greg Fox, an energy products salesman and council candidate in 1998; Patrick Dornan, former president of the Howard County Taxpayers Association; Alec Adams, a longtime Columbia lawyer; John W. Taylor, a Highland resident; and Ananta Hejeebu, who filed to run for the County Council in 2002 but later withdrew before the primary election.

The council is expected to confirm the central committee's recommended appointment on Nov. 15.

A Discussion on Welfare

Maryland Secretary of Human Resources Christopher J. McCabe came to Howard County last week to tout his department's push to improve child welfare services. But he faced some skepticism in his home county, as an audience of local officials, activists and human service providers asked pointed questions.

McCabe, an Ellicott City resident and former Howard state senator, said his agency is launching a two-year initiative to strengthen child welfare services, in part by meeting a General Assembly mandate to hire 140 caseworkers by Jan. 1. The department also is implementing new information technology to improve caseworkers' response times.

"Child welfare is very visible and scrutinized," he told the Oct. 20 gathering hosted by the Association of Community Services in Columbia. "We're largely judged by the public by our ability to deliver welfare services safely and effectively."

Howard's Department of Social Services recently filled seven vacancies in child welfare services and obtained funding for a new half-time position, said Doris S. Mason, interim social services director. The department intends to fill three more vacancies in child welfare and an opening in family assistance programs as soon as possible, she said.

Audience members, however, questioned the state's effort to get more people off public assistance without addressing poverty's causes, and the state's move last year to cut child care assistance.

"We were devastated," said Dorothy L. Moore, executive director of the Community Action Council of Howard County, which lost $500,000 in state funds for child care at the council's Head Start centers in Columbia and Ellicott City. "What can we do to restore some of this money? What can you do about it?"

"I don't want to simplify this," McCabe replied. "There's always been fragile families that are living on the edge. We may not be able to do everything."

Ellen Conroy Kennedy, seen in a 2000 photo, is retiring as director of HoCoPoLitSo but expects to keep busy with her cable television series, "The Writing Life."