William Sawtelle Ratchford II (Bill), of Annapolis, MD, passed away peacefully at his home on April 23, 2023. Bill was a beloved and revered figure in the Maryland political sphere and in the county community, having served as MACo Executive Secretary and later for many years as Director of the MD General Assembly’s Department of Fiscal Services.
Bill was a dedicated public servant. He was a former Air Force Lieutenant and University of Maryland graduate assistant in the University’s Bureau of Governmental Research. He was hired as MACo’s Acting Executive Secretary (functionally, Executive Director) in November 1961, serving the Association temporarily for 11 months while the search for a permanent Executive Secretary continued. He worked with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service of the University of Maryland’s Bureau of Governmental Research and earned a master’s degree in political science at the University. Bill was later permanently hired by MACo to serve as Executive Secretary in January, 1964.
As Executive Secretary, Bill was more interested in building the organization than in active public policy advocacy, and recalled that, “I’m not a salesman; I couldn’t sell snow shovels to Eskimos.” His commitment to the counties and his focus on keeping them unified developed the role of Executive Secretary from one of a helper to one of a leader among county officials. He was instrumental in beginning the cataloging of the History of MACo.
Bill left MACo in November 1968 to head a component of the Maryland Department of Fiscal Services and later replaced Paul Cooper as Executive Director of the Department. At a reception and dinner given by the Association upon his departure, Bill and his wife, Nancy, were given his office chair with an engraved plaque, a silver engraved tray, and a decanter. When interviewed for this history, Ratchford condensed his experience with MACo into one simple statement: “I liked running the organization. It was fun.”
Bill guided the State through the recession of the 1970s and the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s, all while helping to retain Maryland’s valued AAA bond rating. Bill was known as Maryland’s “chief fiscal watchdog.” He also mentored countless young adults with their future career choices (including MACo’s own current Director, Michael Sanderson). He was recognized as one of the most effective and influential fiscal staff directors in the country. After retirement from the State in 1996, Bill continued his relationship with local government, serving as a consultant for Baltimore City.
From his obituary: “Bill had a fabulous distinctive quality, perhaps above others, which was that he made all others feel that they counted; they had something to say, and HE wanted to hear it.”
A Celebration of Life will be planned at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the Maryland School for the Blind in memory of William S. Ratchford II. The school’s address is 3501 Taylor Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21236.