Eugene "Gene" Raymond Lynch III, a member of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Cabinet who orchestrated the preservation of Deep Creek Lake for future generations, died of metastatic bladder cancer Friday at Casey House, a Rockville hospice. He was 50.
The former governor described his friend and colleague as a "renaissance man of public service," given Mr. Lynch's background as a civic activist, labor organizer and small-business owner.
"Very few people brought that kind of diversity of background to his service," Mr. Glendening said. "He was absolutely passionate about public service."
Born at a U.S. naval hospital in Naples, Italy, Mr. Lynch grew up in Louisville, Ky. He got involved in politics while in high school, through a youth organization called Frontlash, part of the AFL-CIO, and moved to Washington to run the national organization after he graduated, his wife, Mary Ellen Lynch of Silver Spring, said yesterday. They married in 1978.
Mr. Lynch attended the University of Maryland, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1983 with an economics degree while running a small construction company. "He was very proud to have one of the only unionized small construction companies," she said.
He became an activist when Mrs. Lynch became president of their Silver Spring neighborhood association. She said she sent her husband as a delegate to an umbrella organization of Montgomery County residents' groups. He later became president of the group.
Mr. Lynch is credited as the strategist who spearheaded the 1990 campaign of Neal Potter, an underdog in the Montgomery County executive race who ran opposing sprawl, Mr. Glendening said.
Mr. Lynch took a realistic approach to growth, the former governor said.
"He clearly was an advocate of stopping sprawl and slowing down the loss of open space," Mr. Glendening said. "At the same time he knew Montgomery County was going to grow, and had to grow."
Mr. Lynch became chief administrative officer in Mr. Potter's administration before he was tapped by Mr. Glendening to serve as acting secretary of general services in 1995 and was named secretary the next year.
That year he led the effort to replace the rotting acorn at the top of the historic Maryland State House dome. Pieces of the replacement for the original 700-pound wooden acorn, which supports the combination lightning rod and flag pole, were fashioned by 31 woodworkers across the state, including Mr. Lynch himself - described in one Sun article as "a Cabinet secretary who can actually make cabinets."
Mr. Lynch also helped preserve Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County in 2000 by coordinating the state purchase of the land under the water and the surrounding shoreline, Mr. Glendening said. If it had been sold to private interests, it would have been open to high-density development.
The former governor had doubts about Mr. Lynch's ability to sell the idea of spending tax dollars to purchase the bottom of a lake. "Your mission is to explain it to the legislature and to the Board of Public Works and to the public," Mr. Glendening recalled telling him. "Much to my surprise, most people got it, and got it very quickly."
He was later appointed deputy chief of staff in 1998 and became chief of staff in 2002, the last full year of Glendening's administration.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who was once Mr. Glendening's staff person for the Board of Public Works, said he used to walk down the hall to have Mr. Lynch explain contracts to him. "He loved the challenge of finding a solution to a complex problem," Mr. Ulman said.
After the governor left office, Mr. Glendening and Mr. Lynch started Smart Growth Investments, a company dedicated to funding sustainable projects. Mr. Lynch served as president.
Mrs. Lynch said that although she was often against growth, her husband wanted to make communities better - preferring sustainable neighborhoods with affordable housing and infrastructure.
He resumed public service by joining the Montgomery County Planning Commission, even though it precluded his company from doing business there, Mr. Glendening said.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 10103 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, where Mr. Lynch was a parishioner.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters, Rebecca Cervoni of Alexandria, Va., Margaret "Maggie" Lynch-Selwood of Vienna, Va., and Jeannine Lynch of Silver Spring; a son, Joseph Lynch of Silver Spring; his parents, Eugene R. Lynch Jr. and Elena Lynch of Louisville; two sisters, Sally Falangia of Rome and Anna Newkirk of Louisville; and a brother, Michael Lynch of Louisville.