Retired official seeks change 'Why wait?': Annapolis' finance director retired last week after 23 years of writing checks, budgets and financial impact statements.

November 05, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Finance Director William S. Tyler has written himself his last paycheck.

The man who handled the payroll of the city's 500 employees for the past 23 years retired last week after deciding life was too precious to spend the rest of it writing checks, budgets and financial impact statements.

"A part of you says, 'Keep working, Keep working,' but I thought, 'Why wait?' " said Mr. Tyler, 60. "I look at retirement partly as an adventure. I just wanted to do it."

For years, Mr. Tyler's presence in the finance office was as predictable as taxes. He calls himself the "institutional memory dump" of all things money-related in Annapolis.

When City Administrator Michael D. Mallinoff said goodbye to Mr. Tyler, he jokingly warned: "We'll call you -- just to say 'HELP!' "

The soft-spoken native of suburban Boston -- who favors expressions such as "Doggone it" -- kept a relatively low profile in the city. He knew people approved of his work when no one showed up in the audience at budget hearings.

His replacement is Kathie Sulick, 44, who has worked for the city for the past seven years, most recently as the assistant director for budgeting.

As she settles in, Mr. Tyler admits to being a bit homesick for city government.

He's having a copy of next year's budget mailed to him just for fun.

In fact, drafting the budget is one of the things he says he'll miss most about the job.

"I enjoy fitting [the budget] together and explaining it and pointing out the ramifications," he said. "But that's my personality. I'm a list-maker by nature."

Mr. Tyler leaves on a high note. The city is enjoying its highest-ever bond rating and has a $1.2 million surplus. He lists among his accomplishments seven years of national awards for the city's budgeting program and the computerization of the finance department.

"He took care of the city's finances like they were his own," said Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins. "If the mayors I had served with had taken his advice, we would have achieved a double-A bond rating long before this."

But Mr. Tyler's tenure, which has spanned seven mayors, was not without personal pain. In 1981, then-Mayor Gus Akerland fatally shot himself in his mayoral office, blaming a city budget crisis over under-funded police and fire pension plans in the suicide note. Mr. Tyler had tried to calm his good friend over a seafood dinner two days before the suicide.

RF "I kept saying, 'It's not good, Gus, but it's hardly anything that

we can't pull out of,' " Mr. Tyler said. "But he was so concerned. He distorted it in his mind."

Sure enough, the city started to correct the money loss the next year. "This was all just so unnecessary and so sad," Mr. Tyler said. "It was just out of the blue. Just out of the blue."

Mr. Tyler began his career in city government by chance. He was living with his wife and three children in Annandale, Va., working as a systems engineer for IBM, when he saw a newspaper want-ad for a "Collector and Treasurer" in Annapolis, a city he had never visited.

Soon, then-mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer had planted Mr. Tyler in a City Hall office with a bulb lamp, linoleum floors and file cabinets full of old finance records.

Mr. Tyler has tried to keep his private life free from the calculation and organization that ruled his work. Mr. Tyler, who is divorced, used to let his wife handle the family's bookkeeping and gave his money to other people to invest.

Now, he's one of those people who runs to the mailbox the day before the bills are due for no reason other than he procrastinated.

Growing up, he imagined a life of adventure. He dreamed of becoming an archaeologist or some other world traveler. Wanderlust seized him in his sophomore year

at the University of Pennsylvania. When poor hearing kept him out of combat in Korea, he joined the Army Medical Corps and X-rayed north Korean villagers for a study on lung disease.

Two years later, he returned to America and steered his plans away from risk and onto a stable career. He switched his major at the University of Pennsylvania from English literature to business and became an accountant.

"If I had it to do over again, I'd do something a little more risky," Mr. Tyler shrugged. "I think I wanted to do a number of different things but I never did them. I sort of pushed toward business."

But Mr. Tyler says he does not regret landing in Annapolis. And he probably won't stop telling stories of brushes with constituents that made the job memorable -- like the irate resident who called to complain about the trash pickup fee labeled "refuse" on his utility bill. "I don't mind paying for water and I don't mind paying for sewer," the resident boomed, "but I DO mind paying for refusing."

Now, Mr. Tyler is eager to abandon the predictability of his old life as a bureaucrat. He hopes to run his first 10K, hike in western Canada and read all the books he has bought over the years. The lifelong Episcopalian even is taking lessons in Biblical Hebrew just to satisfy his curiosity.

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