Bob Waxman, a pillar of St. Mary's County and the Naval Air Station Patuxent River community, died this week at the age of 93, leaving behind a legacy of civil servitude.
Over half a century, Waxman shepherded operations at Webster Field in St. Inigoes through numerous attempts to close it, and has been hailed for leadership.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and a great American, Bob Waxman,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) said in a statement.
“Under his leadership, Webster Field saw unprecedented growth and expansion and survived five rounds of base closures and realignments," Hoyer said. "I worked closely with Bob to prevent the closure of Webster Field, and I can say with confidence that the installation would not be what it is today without his leadership and his tireless efforts to grow its business and ensure that the federal government knew how essential the base and its work was to the military."
Waxman, a Baltimore native who moved to St. Mary's in 1949, began his career with Naval Air Station Patuxent River in 1951, after studying electronic engineering at University of Maryland on the GI Bill.
The civil engineer quickly elevated through the ranks; in 1953 he was promoted and transferred to the Navy Air Navigation Electronics Program, soon taking over the program after most of his office's employees relocated to work with the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlantic City.
The self-described “benevolent dictator” served as the technical director long after NANEP's move from Pax River to Webster Field around 1960; in a 2018 interview with The Enterprise, Waxman said NANEP's budget grew from around $300,000, when he first took over, to $600 million by the time he retired in 2006.
“Bob’s tireless advocacy and passion for Webster Field ensured that thousands of jobs in Southern Maryland were protected,” Hoyer stated. “He was known affectionately by his colleagues as the 'Mayor of Webster Field,' and he cared deeply about the base and its employees.”
Waxman worked with Hoyer to protect Pax River operations over multiple base realignment and closures, including in 1993, when Webster Field was slated for closure.
“Steny Hoyer saved us; we were BRAC’d and he saved us,” Waxman stated in a 2016 interview with The Enterprise. “The decision was made and the winner was Charleston, South Carolina, but because of the valuable work we were doing, they let our part of the organization remain.”
In the following years, Webster Field ended up with far more business, and a bigger budget, than it lost to Charleston.
After Waxman retired as the aircraft division deputy for avionics competency in 2006, he immediately went on to work as a senior adviser at MIL Corporation for another 10 years. He met his wife at Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center, and together they raised five children.
Waxman's former Webster Field colleagues have said he was fair, humble and always stood up for his people.
“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my time at Webster Field,” Waxman said in an interview last year. “Did I make all the right decisions? No, I made mistakes; but I think people understood that I tried to do what was right for all of us. I’m most proud of the fact that we succeeded. I enjoyed my career and not everyone can say that. I’ve been very lucky.”