To those who served with him and after him, Bruce Reeder was a gentleman’s politician.
And his likability crossed party lines.
Reeder, a former Democratic county commissioner, died Thursday morning at 90. He served on the Board of Commissioners from 1990-98 and returned for a second stint from 2002-06.
“Bruce epitomized the gentleman politician,” said County Executive Jan Gardner in a statement. “He was polite and friendly to everyone, whether they shared his policy views or not. Bruce leaves behind a legacy to our community through his public service. He especially loved and was dedicated to the volunteer fire and rescue service and to addressing transportation issues in the community. He will be missed.”
Reeder, who was a lifelong Frederick County resident, was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee in 1978, 1982 and 1986 before eventually moving on to the Board of Commissioners.
Reeder’s wife, Odette Reeder, who also served on the central committee, died in 2014. Reeder is survived by three children, Bruce Reeder Jr., Susan Reeder Jessee and Chuck Reeder. Susan ran as a County Council-At Large candidate in 2014.
Another daughter, Odette "Detty" Reeder, was murdered in 1977.
“We were an all-new board,” recalled former County Commissioner David Gray, a Republican. “So that was interesting. We all kind of had to learn together, and we kind of saw Bruce as the senior member.”
Despite being from different parties, Gray and Reeder got along because they each saw themselves as “money guys,” who had experience handling budgets. Learning the budget was the most difficult learning process of that first term together, but the group learned together.
“We agreed and disagreed on different things, but he was always a pleasant man,” Gray recalls. “He operated with civility at all times, which today is sometimes missing.”
Gray noted Reeder’s special interest in senior citizens, as he helped get them a property tax credit during his tenure. He was passionate about affordable housing, development — concerned about too much growth but recognizing it as a necessity — and was a fighter for the fire departments and teachers in Frederick.
“One of my highest priorities will be to work with the Board of Education to attract and retain highly qualified teachers,” Reeder said in an interview with The Gazette when he announced his candidacy in 2002. “Teachers teach our children and leave lasting memories with us.”
Despite never being an active-duty firefighter, his work with the fire departments helped him become an honorary lifetime member at 10 companies in Frederick.
“He was the constant advocate for the fire service,” said Chip Jewell, director and chief of the Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services. “He loved the fire service, and he always supported the fire service through his whole career.”
Jewell met Reeder when Jewell moved into his house in Monocacy Village at 11 years old. He grew up in the same neighborhood as Reeder, and the two built a friendship through duckpin bowling at the local bowling alley.
They served together on the Democratic Central Committee and attended baseball games together — Reeder an avid Orioles fan. Friends who knew him say Reeder was at almost every Orioles Opening Day or home opener for almost 60 years.
Bruce’s brother, Page, was a radio engineer for WBAL, where he worked with the legendary Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson. Jewell said through that relationship, Bruce Reeder got to know some of the Orioles players personally.
After his first stint as county commissioner ended, Reeder served as one of five lottery commissioners in Maryland. He also served on the board of directors of the Penn Laurel Girl Scout Council, Friends of the South Mountain State Battlefield, Daybreak Adult Daycare Services and the Frederick County Housing Trust.
He was a member of the Business Development Advisory Council and chairman of the Frederick Area Committee for Transportation. He was also a member of the Defenders of Citizens Rights, Inc.
Reeder’s demeanor carried over even to Frederick county commissioners who didn’t serve with him.
He helped former County Commissioner and state delegate Charles Jenkins, another Republican, when Jenkins was campaigning in 2006, taking him to a resident’s home to talk about his campaign rather than meeting at typical campaign spots — the fair or a public speech.
“We met this man, and we sat down and talked for three hours: Just me, Bruce and this resident,” Jenkins said. “I benefited greatly from him. He always saw the best in people.”
Sen. Ron Young said he worked with Reeder on the central committee and the two built a relationship through politics.
“He was a stalwart for Democratic politics,” Young said. “We both came up in an era when Frederick was a Democratic county. He was a true supporter of Frederick and truly loved Frederick.”