Friday, Feb. 1, 2008

Gene Lynch, planning board commissioner, dies

Was an aide to Neal Potter, Parris Glendening

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Gazette file photo
Eugene ‘‘Gene” Lynch died Thursday night after battling cancer. Fellow planning board member Jean Cryor said: ‘‘You just simply couldn’t help loving him when you saw how faithful he was to the principles he believed in.”
County and state leaders today mourned the death of Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioner Eugene ‘‘Gene” Lynch, who died Thursday night after battling cancer.

Lynch, of Silver Spring, took a temporary leave of absence from the board last month.

The County Council appointed Lynch to the board in June, entering the position with decades of planning and development experience.

‘‘You just simply couldn’t help loving him when you saw how faithful he was to the principles he believed in, and his family. He couldn’t stop talking about his family,” said Jean B. Cryor, who was appointed to the board at the same time as Lynch.

She remembered Lynch’s ‘‘extraordinary impact on the thinking, the energy and the vision” of the Planning Board.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson offered this statement: ‘‘Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as we share the loss of a wonderful colleague and exemplary public servant. Gene’s service as a Park and Planning commissioner was emblematic of his career — deep devotion to the public interest, incisive analysis of issues, creative problem-solving and extraordinary wisdom.”

Lynch’s neighbors said they would remember him as a ‘‘jack of all trades,” who was both handy with a hammer and a ‘‘brilliant analyzer of issues.”

Gus Bauman, a neighbor in Silver Spring and former chair of the county’s Planning Board who now works as an attorney, said Lynch was ‘‘remarkable to watch.”

Bauman, who knew Lynch for 25 years, said he was quiet and subtle in his political dealings. The two met while Bauman was president of the North Woodside neighborhood’s civic association in the early 1980s.

‘‘Unless they really knew him, people had no idea that he was involved in the county, and then the state government,” Bauman said. ‘‘He was just a modest guy, and he was good at what he did.”

Julie Lees, a neighbor of the Lynch family, said Lynch was particularly fond of stringing lights on the neighborhood Christmas tree each holiday season, and how he talked to his four children about the importance of working with your hands, using tools and building things. Throughout the 1980s, Lynch had worked with Shelter Works, a residential construction company that built projects mainly throughout Washington.

Pete Iannicelli lives two blocks from the Lynch family and often sees the Lynches at Sunday Mass at St. John the Evangelist in Silver Spring.

‘‘He was a brilliant guy. Anyone who talked to him knew how smart he was,” Iannicelli said.

Lynch worked as an aide to Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter in the early and mid-1990s. He was appointed secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services in 1996. Lynch served during the 1990s on county and state committees ranging from school construction to advocacy for the blind.

Lynch was a top aide for Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), who chairs the board of directors of the company Lynch founded in 2003, Smart Growth Investments, a private group that backs smart growth projects on the East Coast. Lynch continued to serve as president and CEO of the Annapolis company.

Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac nominated Lynch for the Planning Board, calling him the candidate ‘‘who combines civic commitment with a hard-nosed business background.”

Lynch was a former president of the Allied Civic Group and wrote the original version of a 1990 amendment to the County Charter controlling the County Council’s ability to raise property taxes beyond the rate of inflation.

He held a degree in economics from the University of Maryland.

Lawmakers remembered Lynch as a quiet but effective bureaucrat who held several roles under Glendening.

‘‘He was very soft-spoken and was the calm in the middle of the storms he had to traverse,” said Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville.

Despite being deputy chief of staff for several years and then chief of staff to Glendening, Lynch was little known to outsiders, which is what he preferred, said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington. ‘‘Gene was interested in accomplishing things and less interested in getting credit for it.”

A viewing will take place 3 to 5 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday at Collins Funeral Home, 500 University Boulevard West, Silver Spring. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 10103 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring. A reception open to the public follows at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallen Avenue, Wheaton.

Staff Writer Alan Brody contributed to this article.