Jerome W. “Jerry” Klasmeier, a career public servant who had served as assistant Maryland comptroller and earlier had been Anne Arundel County’s chief administrative officer and deputy secretary of the state Department of General Services, died from heart failure June 20 at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The longtime Crownsville resident was 81.
“Jerry was an expert when it came to procurement and contracts. He was competent and had unquestioned integrity,” said former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. “Bobby” Neall, a close friend of 50 years.
“Procurement is a sensitive business, and Jerry was so decent and honest and always knew what he was doing. He was very talented and no one knew more about procurement and contracts than him,” Mr. Neall said. “Jerry was just the best.”
Dennis H. Parkinson, a former state budget director and county administrator, had worked with Mr. Klasmeier in Annapolis.
“Jerry was a fiscal conservative who was a projects guy,” Mr. Parkinson said. “He was not a politician. He was a bureaucrat — not in the negative sense — but a man who had political skills. You’d give Jerry a project and he’d run with it.”
It was Mr. Klasmeier’s personality that also served him well in his work, and especially his ability to listen to and consider another point of view.
“He was an easygoing guy who walked into a room smiling, where oftentimes people weren’t smiling, and he’d warm them up,” recalled Mr. Parkinson, who is now a partner in The Rasmussen Group LLC., a Towson government relations, issue management and business development firm. “He’d work with them and find successful resolutions to problems. He was like a big teddy bear.”
Jerome William Klasmeier, son of Holden Klasmeier, who worked in the Standard Oil Co. accounting department, and Audrey Klasmeier, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Pigtown.
Mr. Klasmeier was a 1958 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962 in political science from what is now Loyola University Maryland. After college, he worked as a merchandise buyer for a year for Montgomery Ward & Co. on Washington Boulevard.
He served in the Army in intelligence from 1963 to 1966, where he attained the rank of captain. While in the service, he was stationed at Fort Devens, in Ayer, Massachusetts, as an adjutant to Gen. Phillip Davidson, who was in charge of the Army Security Agency School there.
Mr. Klasmeier and some friends had gone into Boston for an evening at Your Father’s Mustache on Tremont Street, when he noticed a group of attractive registered nurses from New England Deaconess Hospital, and tipped the maitre d’hotel in order to be seated next to them. That was the night he met the former Jane Howes Pulsifer, whom he married in 1965.
After being discharged from the Army, the couple returned to Maryland where Mr. Klasmeier worked for W.T. Cowan Trucking Co., and his wife worked as a nurse at the old North Arundel Hospital, now the Baltimore-Washington Medical Center.
He began his long career in public service in 1966 when he served in the comptroller’s office at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade. Two years later, he went to work for Anne Arundel County government in the Department of Public Works and Budget Office. From 1974 to 1975, he was a budget analyst in the General Assembly’s Department of Fiscal Services.
In 1975, he joined state government, and in 1977 became deputy secretary of the Department of General Services, a position he held until 1991, when he returned to county government at the time of his appointment as Anne Arundel County’s Central Services Officer, and served in that role until 1998.
“Jerry also had an enormous brain — crammed with knowledge of all aspects of state and local government. Budgets, procurement, capital projects, water and sewer, roads and bridges, parks and open space, wetland and public safety just to name a few,” Mr. Neall said in his eulogy.
“Add an extraordinary work ethic and un questioned integrity — Jerry was the total package. That’s why generations of elected and appointed officials from both parties through five decades trusted Jerry with the most important issues facing our state and county governments, " he said.
Janet S. Owens, who was Anne Arundel County executive, in 1998 named Mr. Klasmeier as the chief administrative officer, which is the county’s highest appointed position, which he held until 2001.
Mr. Klasmeier ended his long career in public service in 2001, after serving for 12 years as assistant state comptroller, serving under William Donald Schaefer and Peter Franchot.
“Though not a lawyer, Mr. Klasmeier was a nationally recognized expert in procurement law and public works. Among many significant projects, he facilitated the completion of a major renovation to the historically sensitive courthouse in downtown Annapolis on Church Circle, as well as transfer of the David Taylor Research Center on the Severn River,” according to a biographical profile.
“Earlier in his career, he worked on the Bloomsbury Square and Bates school projects. He was also among the small group of public officials who drafted the Maryland state regulations governing procurement procedures,” according to the profile.
“And even though he was always part of the hierarchy in the county and state government, he treated everyone with kindness,” Mr. Neall said in his eulogy. “Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn’t like. I never met anyone who didn’t like Jerry.”
He had served on the board of Anne Arundel County Community College from 2003 to 2006, and then again from 2008 to 2009, before being appointed in his own right in 2012, and remained on the board until his death. He also had been a board member of the Hospice of the Chesapeake, and was a member of the Maryland Food Center Authority until his passing.
He also had served on the advisory board to the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard for the Military Youth Corps Challenge Program, an educational program for at-risk students who had dropped out of high school.
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Mr. Klasmeier’s work garnered him many awards from the Anne Arundel Bar Association Award and Comptroller’s Citation in 2001, Governor’s Citation in 1981 and 2001, the State of Maryland Distinguished Service Award in 1981 and 1991, and the Maryland National Guard Appreciation Award in 2000. In 2015, Gov. Larry Hogan granted him an Ambassador of the Bay Award.
He and his wife enjoyed spending weekends at their second home in Wenona, Somerset County, where they the enjoyed entertaining family and friends who they invited with a rousing “come down the country.” It was also here that he was an avid organic gardener and raised prizewinning dahlias.
Mr. Klasmeier also enjoyed fishing in nearby Tangier Sound and conducting fishing trips for his friends and colleagues from government in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as family and friends.
“He was also a personal philanthropist who was always calling up and asking, ‘Do you want any soft crabs or oysters?’” Mr. Neall said. “He did that to everybody.”
He added: “Jerry was a living breathless example of a life well-lived.”
Mr. Klasmeier was a communicant of Our Lady of the Fields Roman Catholic church where a Mass of Christian Burial was offered June 24.
In addition to his wife of 57 years, he is survived by a son, Michael Klasmeier of Crofton; two daughters, Melissa Anne Beardmore of Annapolis and Coleen Elizabeth Klasmeier of Washington; and five grandchildren.