St. Mary’s County administrator dies

January 17, 2013

St. Mary’s County Administrator John Savich died Jan. 7, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Savich, 60, had served as St. Mary’s County government’s administrator since March 7, 2007. He was hired as the county’s director of economic and community development in May 2001.

“What a great guy, totally committed to the family,” Jack Russell, president of the St. Mary’s commissioners, said. “John was family all the way. We can all carry some fond remembrances of being associated with him.”

“He was the best boss I ever worked with,” said Elaine Kramer, chief financial officer of the county government since 2000. “He was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with — if not the most intelligent — but practical. John was just a great blend.” She said he was able to work with department directors, county commissioners and the public.

“It was a perfect balance,” she said. “He’ll be missed. He touched many, many people.”

Bob Kelly was hired as county government’s information and technology director about the same time Savich first came to St. Mary’s from Washington state.

“I don’t think people in the community know how much local government affects the community and how much a good county administrator can effect for the positive. He made a difference in the community,” Kelly said. “And I’m glad I told him that last week when he called me,” just before Savich entered hospice care.

“He was a good man. He fought a heck of a battle,” Thomas A. Mattingly Sr., county commissioner from 1998 to 2010, said. “He looked like he was coming back; he was doing really well. He’ll be missed. He was well liked in the community. He’s not suffering” now.

“He willed himself to go fast,” Russell said. He spent time with Savich at the hospice facility Jan. 5.

Savich went on medical leave in June and made a brief return to the job in the fall. Sue Sabo, director of human resources since 2005, has filled in as acting administrator in his absence.

Sabo said Savich was “one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. His realistic perception of the world and his vision kept us all grounded even though at times it felt like a crisis.”

One of the lasting impressions Russell carries from Savich was “his idea of taking care of things while they’re small — don’t let them grow into big things.”

“He had a good, balanced head. He was able to get people to open up and express their ideas . . . without creating controversies,” Mattingly said.

As county administrator, Kelly said of Savich, “he was very good at identifying what could be done and laying out the plan to accomplish it. He had a very good understanding of how county government functions. John will be missed.”

St. Mary’s School Superintendent Michael J. Martirano said he worked closely with Savich in recent years.

“John was a very collaborative leader,” Martirano said Tuesday. “I always felt confident when I knew he was representing county government.”

He said Savich was good at managing the natural tension that could occur between groups like the school board and county commissioners.

“He was unflappable and very pragmatic,” Martirano said. “We would disagree but were never disagreeable.”

The superintendent said that rarely a day would go by that they did not communicate by e-mail, phone call, text or in person. That combination of professional and personal friendship helped make the workings between county government and the school system more efficient, Martirano said.

Martirano said Savich had developed a real love of St. Mary’s County during his time there.

“These jobs are not jobs. They are a way of life,” he said.

Savich started his career with the U.S. Economic Development Administration in the District. In the 1980s, he worked for the state of Michigan as deputy director for community development, director of strategy and forecasting and state tourism director. In Washington state, he was the tourism director, then director of the state’s trade and economic development programs.

Savich is survived by his wife and two adult children.

Enterprise staff writer Jesse Yeatman contributed to this report.

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