Raquel Sanudo, a retired Howard County chief administrative officer recalled for her firm but friendly management style, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer at Encore of Turf Valley.
The Ellicott City resident was 75.
“Raquel contributed to the quality of life in Howard County,” said Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “She was a strong person who assisted my predecessors, Chuck Ecker and Jim Robey. She was one of the reasons Howard County was so successful.”
Former Howard County Council member Vernon Gray called Ms. Sanudo “an excellent administrator who knew what was going on throughout the county. She had a bubbling personality and a great smile — but don’t let that veneer fool you. She could be tough, very tough.”
Raquel Camallonga was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of Jose Camallonga, a factory foreman, and his wife, Angelita, a seamstress.
She met her future husband, Vincent Sanudo, when both were students at Long Island University. She obtained a bachelor’s degree at the university.
“We were in the same class and she recognized me because she knew an uncle of mine,” said her husband. “That’s how it all started.”
The couple moved to Baltimore in 1967 when he was transferred to the Woodlawn headquarters of the Social Security Administration. She initially taught school as a substitute and went on to be director of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
According to a 2005 story in The Baltimore Sun, she did legislative work for J. Hugh Nichols, who was then a young member of the Maryland House of Delegates; he went on to become county executive in 1978.
She became his top assistant and, after leaving that post, became executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties. She held the job until 1991 when newly elected Howard County Executive Charles I. “Chuck” Ecker, a Republican, named her the county’s chief administrative officer. She went on to serve his successor, James N. Robey, a Democrat.
“She was an incredible lady,” said Mr. Robey. “She worked as hard as anyone in Howard County did. On a snow day, when there was liberal leave, she would arrive early in her boots and hat — and stay late.
“She was a great adviser to me,” he added. “She’d say, ‘Jim, You might want to think about this.’ She saved me from a lot of problems and embarrassments.”
“Raquel is an iron lady. She can be tough as nails,” Mr. Robey told The Sun in 2005.
Her job in the county government required her to supervise County Council legislation, the county budget, personnel, purchasing, insurance and bond sales. When the county executive was away, she essentially ran county government.
"If you have a problem, let's find a solution," she said in 2005 regarding her style. "Do it in a quiet, placid way — seamless. I'm not an interesting person — just get the job done."
“Sanudo has helped Ecker and Robey guide the county government through two tough recessions a decade apart, and she has done it without incurring any partisan criticism,” The Sun’s 2005 story said.
Ms. Sanudo assessed her job, saying that major county issues — land use, school crowding and Columbia — were somewhat constant.
“What does change is how you handle them," she said.
She said the county population had more than doubled since the Nichols administration — and that people often had more objections and wanted more say in government decisions.
"I worry about having to make decisions that don't please everybody," she said.
Family members said she spent her retirement with her grandchildren and played cards and board games with them. She also competed in mahjong.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, 3175 Paulskirk Drive, Ellicott City. A life celebration will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Terrace on the Green at Turf Valley Resort.
In addition to her husband of 55 years, a retired Social Security Administration official, survivors include a son, Vince Sanudo of Las Vegas, Nev.; a daughter, Renee Clingerman of Marriottsville; and four grandchildren.