When the Maryland Racing Commission meets in late January, its executive director, Ken Schertle, won't be sitting at the head table -- for the first time in 16 years.
Schertle's last day on the job was Dec. 31. He retired after nearly four decades of being immersed in Maryland racing. Before he took the racing commission job, he worked 23 years as an accountant at Laurel Park.
"Ken Schertle has truly been a great steward of Maryland racing," said Tim Capps, who recently left his job as executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association to take a position with the Maryland Jockey Club. "I don't think there's a finer person occupying a regulator's position anywhere in North America."
Schertle, 68, would probably blush at the praise. He avoids talking about himself and downplays his accomplishments. Asked what he does, he said: "Service."
Schertle knows the workings of racetracks and off-track-betting facilities from the inside out. His accounting background has proved invaluable, and his institutional knowledge of racing is boundless. And somehow, he keeps track of the myriad rules that govern racing.
"Those statutes and regulations are about five inches thick," Capps said. "I don't think anybody could have done his job better. He'll be sorely missed. He's just a class act all the way around."
In January 1963 Schertle reluctantly accepted what he thought would be a short-term job as an accountant at Bowie Race Course. Four months later, he took a full-time accounting job at Laurel.
"Little did I know I'd end working in racing for 39 years," Schertle said.
Schertle spent 23 years at the track before he accepted the job as executive director of the racing commission. Despite his intimate involvement in the sport, this is as opinionated as he'll allow himself to be: "When racing was more vagabond, it was more fun. You'd move from place to place. It was more cyclical and seasonal. You had openings and closings and changes. You were like the circus coming to town."
Asked his opinion of the current state of racing, he said: "It looks as if racing is in a contraction mode right now. When that contraction will end, I don't know."
Schertle plans on traveling with his wife JoAnne, who recently retired from her job as an administrative secretary. And he plans on playing a lot of golf.
"I enjoyed my years at the racetrack," Schertle said. "And I enjoyed my years here. But as with all things, it's time to move on."