George L. Winfield, director of Baltimore's Department of Public Works and a veteran city employee who developed a reputation as a quiet, steady worker, died Saturday after suffering a stroke about three weeks ago. He was 64 and lived in Baltimore.
Mr. Winfield, who served under five mayors in a career at City Hall that spanned three decades, led the city's largest department through deep budget cuts, droughts, massive snowstorms and a multimillion-dollar effort to upgrade its century-old sewer system.
He helped oversee much-needed repairs on the 94-year-old Loch Raven Dam that is part of the reservoir system which supplies drinking water for most of the region, as well as the more recent $15 million renovation of Lake Montebello, which was completed in August.
"George Winfield devoted almost his entire career to public service - and he did it quietly, professionally and honestly," Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement yesterday. "Those of us who had the pleasure of working with George feel a deep sadness. ... We already miss George tremendously."
As part of his job, Mr. Winfield also sat on the city's powerful Board of Estimates, which approves spending and contracts. He was there at the end of October to vote on a project to convert landfill gas to energy for the Coast Guard - a project that demonstrated the department's renewed environmental focus.
"His knowledge of the inner workings of Baltimore City and his dedication to making government open and efficient made him an indispensable partner on the board," Mayor Sheila Dixon said in a statement. "Since Mr. Winfield fell ill a few weeks ago, his loving family stood by his side. Their quiet devotion was a testament to the unity he nurtured in his home life."
A native of Petersburg, Va., Mr. Winfield joined the Public Works Department in 1972 as a civil engineer. He developed a reputation as not only a competent public official, but as one of city government's nicest people. His employees described him as passionate and patient.
When Mr. O'Malley, then the city's new mayor, tapped him as director in 2000, the department was the focus of two investigations.
"Most of all, I credit George Winfield with restoring the dignity and professionalism to that department," said veteran City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who had known Mr. Winfield for years.
The Public Works Department now has a $380 million operating budget and more than 3,400 employees. In recent months, Mr. Winfield's department had come under increasing attention as Ms. Dixon has made cleaning city streets and waterways a central component of her administration.
Before taking over at public works, Mr. Winfield served as the head of the department's Bureau of General Services for eight years under Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. As a deputy director, he left the city in 1996 for what Mr. Winfield described at the time as "personal" issues with the then-director.
Four years later, O'Malley hired him back, this time to lead the Public Works Department. When Mr. O'Malley became governor in January and Ms. Dixon became mayor to serve out the remainder of his mayoral term, Ms. Dixon kept Mr. Winfield in the position.
Mr. Winfield received an undergraduate degree from Howard University in 1972 and a master's degree in bioenvironmental engineering from the school the next year. He moved to Baltimore from Washington, when he joined the city full time.
"George Winfield, who graduated from Howard University a year before I did, fully encompassed what it means to be a true public servant," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in a statement yesterday. "For three decades, Mr. Winfield consistently synchronized his high standards and constant pursuit of excellence with his conduct, and Baltimore City is a better place today because of it."
Mr. Winfield was married and had three children, according to a 1988 article in The Sun. His family could not be reached yesterday and city officials said they were unsure when funeral services will take place.
Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.