Illness prompts state treasurer to resign Lucille Maurer, 73, has been in public service since 1960s

January 04, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

Reluctantly yielding to illness, Maryland Treasurer Lucille Maurer yesterday called an end to a career in public service that spanned more than three decades.

In emotional meetings with the governor and House speaker, the 73-year-old former legislator, known for her sharp mind and warm personality, said she could no longer continue in her $100,000-a-year job.

NTC "She really, really wanted to stay because public service has been and is her life," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said.

"But she came to the difficult conclusion that she would not be doing the state well to stay. I think she agonized over it."

The governor said he had an "emotional" meeting with Mrs. Maurer and her husband yesterday.

"She basically said, 'I don't believe I'll have a timely recovery and I must resign,' " Mr. Glendening said.

Mrs. Maurer, a Montgomery County Democrat, delivered her resignation letter to House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. in a meeting he described as "full of pathos and compassion."

Afterward, as her husband pushed her wheelchair out the door, she referred all questions to Mr. Taylor.

Her retirement after nine years as treasurer will take effect as soon as the General Assembly elects a successor -- probably by the end of the month.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, a stockbroker and Carroll County Democrat, is the apparent front-runner for the job.

House Speaker Taylor, a Democrat from Cumberland, praised Mrs. Maurer's "integrity and professionalism."

"I regret very much that her career had to end this way," he said, "and I can only hope and pray that her uninterrupted rehabilitation process will be successful."

In recent weeks, some state legislators publicly and privately expressed concerns about her health and her ability to continue in the demanding job.

However, lawmakers stopped short of urging the popular official to retire.

The treasurer represents the legislature on the three-member Board of Public Works, which awards millions of dollars in state contracts every time it meets.

She also is responsible for the management and investment of state money and the sale of Maryland bonds to finance government projects.

Since being hospitalized in August, Mrs. Maurer has missed eight of 11 Board of Public Works meetings and 10 of 11 pre-board meetings.

With her absent, the other two members, the governor and comptroller, had to agree on the contracts before them in order to conduct business.

In November, she told The Sun that a benign tumor that was pressing on her brain and surgically removed in 1992 had begun to grow back.

She said the tumor affected her speech and ability to walk, but not her intellect.

In a statement made public yesterday, her doctor wrote, "While we continue to hope that further treatment will produce further improvement, it is apparent that she will continue to have significant disabilities in the near future."

Many state leaders expressed sadness at the circumstances of her retirement.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Mrs. Maurer made the right choice.

"I thank her for her recognition that the state at this time needs a full-time treasurer. Multimillion-dollar decisions are being made by the Board of Public Works every week, and unless the treasurer is present, she cannot serve the people of Maryland," the Prince George's Democrat said.

Like many women of her era, Mrs. Maurer got her start in politics by serving on her local Board of Education in the 1960s.

With a master's degree from Yale University, she worked as an economist and consultant earlier in her career.

Later, as a state delegate from Silver Spring and then treasurer, Mrs. Maurer developed a reputation for her keen mathematical skill and for taking a statewide perspective in an environment where parochialism is common.

Her retirement "marks the end of an era," said Blair Lee IV, a former lobbyist for Montgomery County government and a political columnist.

"Lucy Maurer was from a strain of Montgomery County politicians who came to Annapolis freshly scrubbed, living their politics out of civics book, and who wouldn't know a back room deal if they stumbled over it. They viewed going to Annapolis like going to the Peace Corps. They came asking, 'How can we help the rest of the state?' "

Other lawmakers, he said, were more interested in how they could help their own districts.

Mrs. Maurer's desire to help other regions was evident in her work on educational issues while a delegate from 1969 to 1987.

With Mr. Lee's father, former acting governor Blair Lee III, she devised a complicated formula designed to increase state education funds for poorer jurisdictions, at the expense of richer counties like her own. The idea was to try to equalize the amount of money spent on public schools around the state.

Well-liked and pleasant, she would wear down legislative opponents by doing more research on the issue then they did, admirers recalled yesterday.

She ran for the Senate in 1986 and lost. In 1987 the legislature elected her treasurer, the first women to hold that post.

"She certainly opened the pathways for other women," said state Sen. Ida G. Ruben, a Montgomery Democrat.

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