Richard Batterton

[ Age 77 ] Longtime public servant was Maryland's secretary of human resources and deputy health department secretary

November 22, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Richard A. Batterton, former director of the Maryland Division of Vocational Rehabilitation who earlier had been secretary of human resources and state energy czar, died of stroke complications Monday at Sinai Hospital. The Guilford resident was 77.

Mr. Batterton was born in Billings, Mont., and raised in Seattle. He was awarded a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1951 from the University of Washington, and a master's degree in social work in 1954.

He administered county and state programs in delinquency services in Washington state until 1962, when he was recruited by Thomas J.S. Waxter Sr., then state director of welfare, to become superintendent of the Maryland Children's Center in Catonsville.

He was assistant director for delinquency services in the state Welfare Department from 1965 to 1966, when Gov. J. Millard Tawes named him as the first director of the newly created state Department of Juvenile Services.

"Richard A. Batterton is a specialist in dealing with juvenile delinquency, and when he talks about it, he blends the tones of missionary, social worker, administrator, fund-raiser and community organizer," an Evening Sun profile of him said at the time.

Mr. Batterton was responsible for shaping the department's philosophy, in addition to staffing and overseeing the budget and operating programs of the new agency. With a budget of $12 million and a staff of 1,200, it quickly earned local and national recognition for delivering quality services to children.

"It happens that I believe the way you make those services most effective is through the best possible management," he told The Evening Sun in 1975. "A weak or willy-nilly or defective management runs the risk of depriving people of those services."

In 1969, Dr. Neil Solomon, then director of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, selected Mr. Batterton to be his deputy secretary, a position he held for four years.

Because of Mr. Batterton's expertise in organizing and administering the state's sprawling health department, Gov. Marvin Mandel turned to him the midst of the 1973 energy crisis to organize and serve as director of the Maryland Energy Policy Office.

From 1975 to 1979, Mr. Batterton was secretary of the state Department of Human Resources, overseeing more than 8,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $500 million.

"The department served thousands of Marylanders through a myriad of employment and public-assistance programs. The Maryland Fuel Fund for people with financial need was initiated under his tenure as secretary," said Linda S. Schulte, who had worked with Mr. Batterton at the energy agency and is now director of public relations and marketing at Anne Arundel Community College.

After leaving Human Resources in 1979, he became vice president of University Research Corp. in Chevy Chase, then established Richard Batterton & Associates, a consulting firm.

In 1981, he returned to public life as assistant state superintendent of education in charge of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, a position he held for a decade.

From 1991 to 1994, he was director of corporate and foundation giving for United Jewish Appeal Inc., and was interim executive director of the League for People with Disabilities from 1996 until 1998.

"He was one of the smartest and most compassionate individuals I've ever worked with. He had an amazing capacity to make systems work and make them more accessible to those who needed them," Ms. Schulte said. "That was paramount with him and even though it sounds trite, he was committed to social justice."

In retirement, Mr. Batterton liked reading, attending movies and traveling to Louisiana, where he enjoyed zydeco dancing.

"He was extremely involved in the Maryland Mentoring Partnership as both a mentor and tutor. He also was a tutor at the Krieger Schechter Day School," said his wife of 28 years, the former Karin R. Lapidus.

Mr. Batterton was a member of Beth Am Synagogue.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

Also surviving are three sons, Richard M. Batterton of Elkridge, Steven N. Batterton of Sykesville and Wade T. Batterton of Newtown, Pa.; two daughters, Sara E. Batterton of New York City and Jenn E. Batterton of Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.; a sister, Joanne Smith of Redmond, Wash.; and five grandchildren. His marriage to the former Angie Carras ended in divorce.

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