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Appreciation: Stan Ruchlewicz brought knowledge, expertise and main street values to Westminster

Stan Ruchlewicz, 56, the City of Westminster's administrator of economic development and Main Street manager, died June 5.

The news in Westminster spread quickly Tuesday that he had suffered a heart attack earlier in the day.

Ruchlewicz came to Westminster in May 2001 from Havre de Grace, where he had been hired in 1989 as the director of planning and zoning. During his time there, he worked with then-mayor, now Harford County Executive David Craig.

Ruchlewicz was recognized as an authority on planning and economic development for small communities. He served in the past as president of the Maryland Downtown Development Association and on the Main Street Maryland Main Street Review Committee.

He was a walking encyclopedia of scholarly, academic and intellectual approaches to what made small towns run on all cylinders. He had a unique ability to translate and explain complex economic formulas, planning protocols and design paradigms — all with a smile that reminded many of the cat that ate the canary.

He guided Westminster's participation in the Main Street Maryland program, which helped the city raise the profile of its downtown area and provided training and assistance for economic development. In 2010, the Westminster Main Street Program won the Main Street Maryland Excellence Award for Design for the implementation of a $2 million facade improvement program.

Ruchlewicz reveled in all things that celebrated the downtown area as a centerpiece of the city, and his stamp is on every street corner on Main Street and every gathering — from concerts on Locust Lane to the Flower and Jazz Festival; from Westminster's Fall Festival to the day-to-day celebrations of commerce and commercial success.

During the Christmas season, Ruchlewicz was not only a cheerleader for the city's Miracle on Main Street celebration, but was a perennial fixture at the Locust Lane house at the North Pole — where he was "Stanta" Claus to the delight of children and parents alike.

His job required a great deal of planning, knowledge, networking and promotion, but behind it all, Ruchlewicz always emphasized the truism that a vibrant Main Street remains the backbone of community life, and the foundation on which families and friends are connected to their home towns.

Soon after Ruchlewicz came to Westminster, Dean Minnich — who later became a county commissioner but was writing at the time for the Carroll County Times — wrote about Stan that, "If it's true that Main Street is any town's heart and soul, then it might be argued that Stan Ruchlewicz is at the very least Westminster's spiritual advisor."

His life was firmly on Westminster's Main Street. Still, while he was considered by many in the mid-Atlantic region to be an expert on local zoning, planning and small business issues, Ruchlewicz was also known internationally for his expertise.

In fall 2001, when Westminster made a presentation for an Economic Development Roundtable and Seminar at the Russian Embassy — "Small Towns in Russia" — Ruchlewicz was key in helping prepare Westminster's presentation.

And in 2002, as Westminster's sister-city relationship with Estonia was forming, Ruchlewicz went out of his way to help counsel the Paide, Estonia mayor and council chairman on economic development issues for Estonia.

Ruchlewicz was also an artist, photographer, writer and avid reader who literally absorbed art and culture. Other interests included music — he often attended Tournament of Band events, where he served as a judge for Drum Corps Associates and the high school marching band circuit with the National Judges Association.

Born Dec. 27, 1955, in Reading, Pa., he was the son of Thomas and Florence Ruchlewicz.

He was the husband of Pat Ruchlewicz.

Surviving him, in addition to his wife, are brother Mark Ruchlewicz, daughters Lynne and Lisa Ruchlewicz; stepdaughters Katie Barritt, Kelly and Kimberly Miller; stepson Wesley Miller; and grandchildren Anthony and Alexandra Miller, and Madeline and Ross Barritt.

Funeral services were held June 8 at Haight Funeral Home and Chapel, Sykesville.

Ruchlewicz had a wonderful sense of humor and infectious optimism.

He clearly understood that it was not good enough to be the best, you had to be nice.

Stan Ruchlewicz was one of the nicest officials I have ever worked with in my 40 years of working with the public.

Kevin Dayhoff, a columnist for The Carroll Eagle, is also a former mayor of Westminster. He worked with Stan Ruchlewicz in that capacity, and also counted him as a dear friend. He may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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