Walter Chitwood, adviser to county executives, dies
Walter N. Chitwood III, a longtime adviser to several Anne Arundel County executives who had a second career as an educator, died Jan. 5 from complications of a series of strokes at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Harwood. The Annapolis resident was 70.
“Walter was a strong-willed person,” said Janet S. Owens, a Democrat of Crownsville who served as Anne Arundel County executive from 1998 to 2006.
“When Walter worked for me, he was a troubleshooter, and as a troubleshooter you could always trust him to do the job, and he was trusted by everyone in and out of government,” Owens said. “He always wanted to do what was best for the county and the region. He was just an exceptional human being.
“In all the years I knew Walter, we never discussed politics. It was always about something that would help the county. That was his concern,” she said.
“He was a pure public servant who was not crippled by political attitudes. People would turn to Walter,” said Rick H. Wade of Arnold, a friend of more than 40 years and a former Capital Gazette reporter who retired as senior vice president of the American Hospital Association.
“Walter went on to become one of the most respected figures in county and state government. A man not of politics but of the passion for what government administered with integrity, fairness and dedication could do for the lives of the people it served,” Wade wrote in an email.
The son of Walter N. Chitwood Jr., a career Navy chief, and Eleanor Clara Chitwood, a longtime Anne Arundel County public school educator, Walter Newton Chitwood III was born in San Diego and moved to Annapolis shortly after his birth, and finally to Arnold.
“His mother drove Walter and his oldest sister in 1948 across the country alone to Annapolis because her husband was shipping out and not be stationed in San Diego any longer,” said his wife of 40 years, the former Jane MacDougall, a retired Anne Arundel County librarian and media specialist.
A 1966 graduate of Severna Park High School, where he was a noted scholar athlete and later was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame, he entered Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., which he attended on an ROTC scholarship, and played football. He later obtained a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Baltimore.
After graduating from Wheaton in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Chitwood was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army’s Airborne Rangers and sent to Vietnam in 1971, assigned to the 3rd Squad of the 6th Armored Cavalry, the same unit in which General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing began his military career in 1886.
“I enjoyed many aspects of the Army and Vietnam,” Chitwood told The Evening Sun in a 1975 interview. “You can’t match the experience of being a platoon leader, of guiding 40 men and being responsible for them.
“It was a great challenge and I think we have to break out of the shell where we say that the military can’t think, that everything military is arbitrary and that discipline is given without compassion or understanding,” he said.
“Walter never really talked about Vietnam,” Owens said.
“He came back from Vietnam and wanted to do public service, and he had a sense of fairness to all of those who needed it,” Wade said. “How can I help you, this was the attitude he brought to public service. He didn’t care about job titles or being in the spotlight.”
After being discharged in 1974, Chitwood, whose decorations included two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, returned to Annapolis, where he became Republican candidate Robert A. Pascal’s “shadow,” according to The Evening Sun profile, during his campaign for county executive.
Chitwood’s role was jotting down notes in a carefully organized notebook and making sure that Pascal kept on schedule and reasonably on time.
The two men became acquainted when Chitwood, who was then 14, played football on the Severna Park Green Hornets, coached by Pascal, and they remained close during Chitwood’s high school and college years.
“They became close friends, perhaps closer than most coaches and players, since Chitwood’s father, a career Navy man, had died when Walter was just 12 years old,” reported The Evening Sun.
“Bob Pascal had four daughters, and I think he thought of Walter as being a son,” said Wade, who also worked in the Pascal administration with Chitwood.
“He was just one heck of a kid, and he had a great career,” said Pascal, now a St. Michaels farmer.
When Pascal won the election, Chitwood was planning to re-enlist in the Army, but his former coach persuaded him to take a job in his administration as head of the Bureau of Community and Industrial Affairs, which was basically the county’s “complaint bureau,” observed The Evening Sun.
“Walter had enthusiasm and it was always, ‘Let’s do it right.’ He was inspirational,” Pascal said. “I think people were always happy to be in his thoughts. He did not rest and always wanted to talk about anything you wanted to talk about or promote.”
In addition to working for Pascal and Owens, Chitwood held a variety of staff positions, including chief administrative officer, county controller and chief of several other agencies with O. James Lighthizer, a Democrat who was county executive from 1982 to 1990, and Republican Robert R. Neall, who led the county from 1990 to 1994.
He also had served as a budget analyst with the state government, and during these years, had joined the faculties of Anne Arundel Community College and Washington College in Chestertown, where he was an adjunct professor in economics and government.
In 1997, Chitwood, who was working as a budget analyst at Anne Arundel Community College, was appointed Annapolis’ chief administrator by Mayor Dean L. Johnson, a position he held for little more than a year, family members said.
Chitwood retired from Anne Arundel County Community College in 2014, and his last official work with Anne Arundel County government was with Owens, Wade said.
“He was a budget analyst for Prince George’s County until leaving that post in 2012,” Jane Chitwood said.
An outdoorsman, Chitwood enjoyed taking or conducting nature walks with family and friends in the nearby woods to his home. He was also an avid reader of history, politics and biographies.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the John M. Taylor Funeral Home, 147 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis.
In addition to his wife of 40 years, he is survived by two sons, Ryan Chitwood, of Annapolis, and Ian Goldberg, of Philadelphia; a daughter, Carri Browne, of Copenhagen; a sister, Eleanor Ann Boyd, of Shermans Dale, Pennsylvania; and five grandchildren.
Walter N. Chitwood III served in the Army and was a platoon leader in Vietnam.