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Portrait unveiled of Kevin Kamenetz, late Baltimore County executive

Dylan Kamenetz and Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler uncover a portrait of Dylan's late father, former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz died on May 10 and his portrait now hangs in the Historic Courthouse in Towson.
Dylan Kamenetz and Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler uncover a portrait of Dylan's late father, former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz died on May 10 and his portrait now hangs in the Historic Courthouse in Towson.(Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

Kevin Kamenetz loved his job as Baltimore County executive so much, and worked such long hours, said his widow, Jill, that all his office was missing was a “Home, Sweet Home” sign.

So it’s fitting, she said, that her late husband’s portrait now hangs in the Historic Courthouse in Towson, positioned at the end of a long line of Baltimore County executives.

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Jill Kamenetz watched as her son Dylan and current County Executive Don Mohler yanked a black cloth to reveal a portrait of Kamenetz, a wide grin on his face and a slight glint in his eyes.

The new 9,600-square-foot Kevin Kamenetz Arena at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park in Cockeysville will be used for a program that pairs horses with veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He truly loved it here,” she said during a ceremony Friday at the Historic Courthouse. “He loved his job. He loved coming in every day.… He will be missed, and this portrait is just amazing because he’s kind of home. This was his home.”

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Kamenetz’s portrait — a photograph taken by former county photographer Bryan Dunn — hangs in the hallway outside the county executive’s office. Three of the men whose portraits already are on the wall attended the ceremony: former executives C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Dennis Rasmussen and Ted Venetoulis.

Kamenetz was completing his second term as executive and was running for governor when he died suddenly of cardiac arrest on May 10.

Adele Kass, who worked for Kamenetz when he was on the County Council and as county executive, recalled his passion for making the county a better place to live.

“I never met anyone more honest, more sincere, more giving, more always wanting to do the right thing,” Kass said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz spent nearly three decades building a strong Democratic political base only to have it cut down by his sudden death of cardiac arrest. His death will transform the Maryland governor's race.

Mohler, who was Kamenetz’s chief of staff before being appointed county executive, recounted Kamenetz’s efforts to boost the county’s economy, from luring officials from Guinness to open a brewery in Relay to promoting McCormick & Co.’s new headquarters in Hunt Valley and the redevelopment of the old steel mill in Sparrows Point.

“He had this innate ability to see things long before anyone else could see it,” Mohler said.

Mohler read an Instagram post from Kamenetz’s younger son Dylan that left many in the audience wiping away tears.

“If you are fortunate enough to have a father: Spend time, create memories and do that one thing that you were scared of or don’t want to do,” Dylan wrote. “Because tomorrow is never promised.”

Venetoulis lightened the mood by imagining Kamenetz as an angel politician in heaven — and facing a group of “unhappy angels.” Venetoulis imagined Kamenetz staring down the most vocal and angry and telling them: “’Citizen angel: Your job is to listen. My job is to speak and preach!’”

Kevin Kamenetz and I never saw eye-to-eye. That’s natural, of course, for an elected official and the beat reporter who covers him. If we became fast friends, could I have accurately and skeptically covered him?

The line was delivered to uproarious laughter from the crowd — it recalled one of Kamenetz’s less-than-proud moments: As protesters interrupted a school groundbreaking ceremony in 2013, Kamenetz lost his temper and told them: “It’s my job to talk, it’s your job to listen right now.”

Kamenetz had a tradition of periodically inviting former executives to gather with him so he could seek their advice and talk about the unique job that they all held. Turning serious, Venetoulis concluded his remarks by addressing Kamenetz directly, as if he were present.

“We will really miss you,” he said. “This portrait will be a pleasant reminder of your friendship, your talent and your decency.”

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