Robert R. Strott

[ Age 74 ] Business executive helped usher charter government into Anne Arundel and was a top administrator.

February 20, 2007|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN REPORTER

Robert Rountree Strott, a businessman who four decades ago helped guide Anne Arundel County into the era of charter government and served as a top administrator for three county executives, died of heart disease Wednesday at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The Stevensville resident was 74.

Mr. Strott was tapped by Anne Arundel's first chief executive, Joseph W. Alton Jr., to aid in the transition from a government run by a board of commissioners in the mid-1960s. After returning briefly to the private sector, Mr. Strott became director of administration for Mr. Alton in 1968.

Mr. Alton credited Mr. Strott with helping his administration to improve the county's credit rating, reorganize the police and fire departments and secure state school construction money. He also spearheaded millions of dollars in public works projects.

"I don't know what I would have done without him," said Mr. Alton.

Mr. Strott also left his imprint on Anne Arundel as an executive with Constellation Energy's real estate division. As the company's senior vice president in charge of development planning, he oversaw the development of Piney Orchard as a planned community south of Odenton and the National Business Park, a base of operations for defense contractors working with the nearby National Security Agency.

Mr. Strott was able to accomplish so much because of his ability to deftly negotiate and oversee complex financial deals, Mr. Alton and others said. One such example was the agreement he struck with state highway officials to purchase the right of way along an old railroad line for the creation of the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail.

Mr. Strott served as the director of administration, the county's No. 2 position, for the next two county executives, Republican Robert A. Pascal and Democrat O. James Lighthizer, working a total of 17 years in county government.

"I am numb when I think of him, when I think of the contributions he made for the county and what he did for my administration and the following administrations," Mr. Alton said. "I could never emphasize his contributions to the county too much."

Mr. Strott also wrote the county's first purchasing manual.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Mr. Strott was a standout student athlete in lacrosse and ice hockey. He was an all-state ice hockey player at Loyola High School. At Loyola College, where Mr. Strott received his bachelor's degree in business in 1954, he was an All-American honorable mention in lacrosse.

He didn't lose his affinity for hockey. Mr. Strott came up with the idea to build an ice rink at Piney Orchard as a way to attract families to the community, said his wife, Mary Lucia Eilers Strott. The Washington Capitals practiced there for years.

"He thought that would be a tremendous draw to buy in Piney Orchard," Mrs. Strott said. "So, yes, that was his baby."

Mr. Strott joined the Marine Corps in 1954, his wife said. He served as a range officer and briefly ran an officers club before leaving active duty as a captain in 1957.

Mr. Strott earned his master of business administration degree from George Washington University about 1960 and soon came to work for Anne Arundel County as a purchasing officer.

About the time Mr. Alton won a special election in 1965 to become Anne Arundel's first county executive, Mr. Strott left to work for Bendix Corp. in Towson.

Mr. Alton tapped a handful of Westinghouse executives to help him build the county government, and he also quickly asked Mr. Strott to return. Mr. Strott left Bendix after six months.

A resident of Annapolis for 28 years, Mr. Strott moved with his wife to a home they had built in Stevensville - with a view of the Bay Bridge.

A memorial service for Mr. Strott was held yesterday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, 109 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis.

In addition to his wife of 51 years, Mr. Strott is survived by a son, Gregory Strott of Annapolis; a daughter, Judy Rountree Commesso of Marshfield, Mass.; three brothers, William Strott of Summit, N.J., James Strott of Baltimore and Thomas Strott of Atlanta; a sister, Mary Gunning of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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