Roger B. Hayden, former Baltimore County executive and longtime member of the county school board, on which he served as president for six years, died Thursday from acute myeloid leukemia at Stella Maris Hospice. The Baldwin resident was 74.
“A dedicated public servant and tireless advocate for public education, County Executive Hayden exemplified what it means to give back to our communities,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski said in a statement Thursday announcing Mr. Hayden’s death. “Baltimore County is stronger for his service.”
Gov. Larry Hogan praised Mr. Hayden as “a great Marylander who devoted much of his life to serving his community” and for his “unwavering commitment to education.”
Robert Y. Dubel, a career educator who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years until retiring in 1992, and Mr. Hayden were longtime friends.
“I always thought of Roger as the quintessential community leader,” said Dr. Dubel, of Glen Arm. “I thought he was a perfect board president because he was interested in the role of the board in oversight and the administration and day-to-day operations of the schools without any political influence.”
Mr. Hayden was appointed to the board by Gov. Marvin Mandel in 1974 and served for 12 years. He was board president from 1979 to 1986 and returned in 2017, when Governor Hogan appointed him to fill a vacancy.
Dr. Dubel spent two hours visiting Mr. Hayden at Stella Maris the day before his death, talking over old times.
“I told Roger, ‘I’ve probably tired you out,’ and he said, ‘No, no, don’t go,’ so we spoke for another hour,” he said.
Whenever a new board member said they represented a district, Mr. Hayden quickly dissuaded them of that notion.
“He’d chastise them and would say, 'We’re board members for the whole county not just a district, and we’re not a department of county government but state government,” Dr. Dubel said.
“Whenever we had a new member on the board and during orientation, his favorite saying was, ‘One thing I want you to remember, the kids are the bottom line,’ ” Dr. Dubel said. “He was thoroughly student-oriented, and he told me Wednesday it was the highlight of his life that he had been able to serve students.”
In 1990, Mr. Hayden, a Republican, ran against and defeated County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, a Democrat.
“He ran a frugal campaign for county executive and ran at the last minute. I think he spent $20,000, when today campaigns cost millions,” Dr. Dubel said. “And Roger never asked me for a contribution. He ran a brilliant campaign, and it didn’t cost much money.”
His campaign centered on development and property taxes, and his election saw Republicans capture three of the seven County Council seats.
“He was able to ride this anti-incumbent fervor that was sweeping the country that year,” said County Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.
It was during Mr. Hayden’s administration the county passed the Honeygo Plan, which controlled development in a rural area of Perry Hall. Other accomplishments during the Hayden years were placing more police officers on the street, maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, and streamlining the development process for commercial and residential builders.
Mr. Hayden’s tenure as county executive was not without controversy, exacerbated by the recession of the early 1990s. There were service reductions, job cuts and an ensuing uproar when he closed nine of 24 county libraries.
He was denied a second term when he was defeated in 1994 by C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, a Democrat.
Mr. Hayden ran a campaign “of fiscal restraint and cutting services,” Mr. Marks told The Baltimore Sun Thursday. “He kept his promises, but it was at a tremendous cost to him politically.”
Former County Executive Donald I. Mohler III, a friend of Mr. Hayden’s for 40 years, told The Sun, “I don’t know that folks ever appreciated what Roger had to do ... in 1990 to 1994 when there was a terrible economic downturn.”
Mr. Hayden was county executive during Dr. Dubel’s final two years as superintendent of Baltimore County public schools.
“When he was county executive, he practiced what he preached, and never tried to interfere with the school system. He kept his hands off,” Dr. Dubel said.
Roger Burdell Hayden, the son of Conway S. Hayden, a General Motors Corp. pipefitter, and his wife, Louise Hayden, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in the Jones Creek section of southeastern Baltimore County.
He was a 1962 graduate of Sparrows Point High School in Edgemere and in 1965 earned an associate degree from what is now the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex. Two years later, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Baltimore.
Mr. Hayden’s professional life spanned finance, operations, facilities management and transportation.
He began working in the Eastern Stainless Corp. mail room in 1963 and quickly developed a reputation for being an “ambitious workaholic,” reported The Sun in 1990. Seventeen promotions later, he was named company vice president of operations, responsible for overseeing 800 employees.
After retiring from the Dundalk company in 1985, he was named operations manager of the Durrett Shepphard Steel Co. and subsequently was appointed vice president of George Transfer Inc., a Parkton trucking company.
His experiences in business shaped Mr. Hayden’s political philosophy.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in business, it’s that we have to avoid the fat and happy syndrome,” he told The Sun in a 1990 profile. “If you’re making a profit and you let yourself get too comfortable, you’ve made your first mistake.”
From 1996 to 2008, he was director of ballpark operations for the Orioles and was liaison between the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority. He joined Towson University in 2009 as associate vice president of facilities, a position he held until stepping down in 2013.
Mr. Hayden was a former president of the American Lung Association of Maryland.
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Mr. Mohler told The Sun that Mr. Hayden’s legacy will be his work with county public schools rather than his time as county executive.
“Roger’s legacy will be his dedication to public schools,” he said. “It was a consistent theme for four decades.”
Funeral services for Mr. Hayden will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3911 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix, Baltimore County.
He is survived by his wife of 23 years, Marina Brockmann; three daughters, Alexandra L. Hayden of Baldwin, Rochelle Hayden-Connell of Glen Arm and Gwendolyn Hayden of Olney; and a granddaughter. Two earlier marriages ended in divorce.