George P. Poff Jr., a longtime Baltimore County public school lobbyist who later served as a legislative officer for two Maryland governors, died Thursday of skin cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Fallston resident was 65.
"I got to know him when I was a young delegate, and I always found him to be prepared, very loyal and a gentleman at all times" former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday. "He was always a welcome presence, even on divisive issues. In 2002, I asked him to work in our policy office, and he did a fine job. And when he got sick, he fought through chemotherapy for a year and came to the office when he felt well enough or worked from home.
"He was a great public servant and leaves a positive legacy, many friends and a lot of fond memories in Annapolis," Mr. Ehrlich said.
"He stayed on with the O'Malley team," said his wife of 40 years, the former Kathleen Ann Tucker, "but wasn't able to continue because of his health and was forced to step down earlier this year."
From 1979 to 2001, he was the Baltimore County public schools' lobbyist in Annapolis, also representing the Board of Education at the federal level.
Dr. Poff was also an assistant to the superintendent of schools, directed the board's offices of law and community relations, and supervised labor negotiations with the five unions that represent the system's 17,000 employees.
"This is a tough one. He was like a son to me," said Robert Y. Dubel, Baltimore County superintendent of schools during the 1970s and 1980s. "George was the best legislative strategist I've ever known. He was most persistent in pursuing his goals and had a deep appreciation for the legislative process.
"He could have made a fortune as a lobbyist in the private sector, but was devoted to advancing programs for the children and youth of Baltimore County," Dr. Dubel added. "He was a great friend of, and had an indefatigable love for, the school system."
The former superintendent recalled how Dr. Poff, no matter how late the hour, would remain in Annapolis so he would be available to consult on legislation that directly affected the school system. "If the legislature stayed all night, he stayed all night," Dr. Dubel recalled. "The next morning, he'd drive to Fallston, take a shower, change his clothes, and then turn around and drive back to Annapolis," .
"We worked very closely together when I was president of the Senate," said former Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg. "He was extremely competent, knew how to talk to people and was a real gentleman."
Dr. Poff was born in Baltimore and raised in Howard Park. He was a 1961 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and earned a bachelor's degree in 1965 in education and sociology from what is now Towson University.
He attended the University of Baltimore School of Law and earned a master's in social work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in 1969. He earned a doctorate in education in 1976 from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
In 1966, Dr. Poff went to work as a staff member of the Maryland Constitution Convention, where he assisted Harry Bard, a convention member from Baltimore, in compiling and reviewing convention recommendations to the Maryland General Assembly. The proposed constitution was rejected by the state's voters in 1968.
Dr. Poff joined the office of Gov. Spiro T. Agnew in 1968 as assistant program executive for health, education and social services. He remained in that position after Marvin Mandel succeeded Mr. Agnew, who left to become Richard M. Nixon's vice president.
From 1971 to 1979, when he went to work for Baltimore County schools, Dr. Poff worked for the state Department of Education. He represented the state Board of Education and schools superintendent before the governor, General Assembly and U.S. Congress.
A history buff, Dr. Poff was particularly interested in the French and Indian War, and he collected tools and artifacts from that era. He also enjoyed fishing, hunting with muzzleloaders and collecting early American tools and decoys.
Dr. Poff was a member of the Friends of Jerusalem Mills and the Friends of Fort Frederick. He was a Life Scout and for years was the water safety director at the Broad Creek Boys Scout camp in Harford County.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 1021 St. Mary's Road, Pylesville.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, George T. Poff of Hampden; a daughter, Kristen Leigh Poff of Hampstead; a brother, William A. Poff of Catonsville; and many nieces and nephews.