James Gutman, an environmental ombudsman in Coke-bottle glasses, has toiled away his retirement on obscure, odd-sounding panels like the State Water Quality Advisory Committee.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has honored the Cypress Creek resident and the countless hours he has spent steering the state toward a healthier, greener environment. He was one of four people statewide to receive one of the MDE's "Together We Can Clean Up" awards.
"There are literally thousands of people across Maryland committed to improving the quality of the state's environment," said environment department Secretary Robert Perciasepe. "Many of the recipients have volunteered their time, or gone beyond the requirements of their jobs to make a difference."
Gutman has served as the chairman of the Water Quality Advisory Committee -- a group of citizens, public officials and industry representatives that addresses anything related to water quality it thinks important -- since 1980.
He also is a member of the Patuxent River Commission, which monitors cleanup efforts along that scenic waterway, and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission. The commission supervises the enforcement of a 1,000-foot protected area along the banks of the bay and its tributaries.
Gutman reacts modestly to the recognition, noting that he didn't become interested in water quality until he retired from his family's department store business in Baltimore and moved to Anne Arundel County in the early 1970s.
Since then, "I've done my best to make sure that there is a general recognition that sediment is a major enemy of the Chesapeake Bay." And, he says proudly, erosion control is now a "major thrust" of government and environmental groups.
Gutman says he won't let up. "Oh, I'm having a great time with it. The amount of sediment still reaching the bay is astronomical."