Bob White has hung up his hat – his iconic cowboy hat, that is.
After 25 years leading the Bristol Borough-based Bucks County Redevelopment Authority (RDA), White, 77, retired Monday with plans to take some time to relax and embark on a trip or two with his wife. However, the former farmer and builder said he plans to spend most of time in the area and still work when needed with the RDA over the next year or two.
White, a 77-year-old Middletown resident, has helped with more than 150 redevelopment projects across Bucks County over the years.
During White’s tenure at the RDA, he oversaw more than 150 projects. Some notable ones in the Levittown area include transformation of the former Dial Soap property on Radcliffe Street in Bristol Borough, the owner-occupied rehabilitation program, cleaning up brownfield sites with millions of dollars in funds, working on the Enterprise Zone of Bucks County, and the Bristol Township blighted home program.
Using the Municipal Grant Program that utilizes casino tax revenue from Parx in Bensalem, the RDA has doled out $37 million for Lower Bucks County towns and funded upgrades to streetlights, emergency radios, gas pumps for township vehicles, SWAT team gear and other projects.
A study done several years ago found that recent RDA projects have saved or created 16,000 jobs in Bucks County.
His proudest accomplishment is the RDA’s role in revitalizing the Keystone Industrial Port Complex along the Delaware River in Falls Township. A lot of work between numerous private the public parties was needed to bring the international port to life at the old U.S. Steel property, he recalled.
White proudly noted that a study has found the port has brought plenty of jobs and more than $1 billion in economic impact to the region.
White has overseen the growth of the RDA and its moves from Yardley to an office on Wilson Avenue in Bristol Borough. In the past few years, White has led the move from Wilson Avenue to the former Bristol Jewish Center on Pond Street in the heart of the borough.
“He’s turned this from one person with a typewriter into a multi-person organization,” RDA Board Chairman Sean Schafer said.
“The staff here right now is really good. They are. Not to take away from people who have worked here in the past,” White said.
White said he is proud that the RDA is self-sustaining and takes very little direct tax dollars aside from management costs related to the casino impact grant program.
Over the years, government officials have looked at many projects White has completed and noted that he has been able to get all the parties working together.
Schafer said Democrats and Republicans have been able to look to White and come together to get projects done.
“The success of Bob’s tenure as director of the redevelopment authority can be tangibly seen throughout Bucks County,” Schafer said.
White said his formula has been to identify the problems, meet with the people involved, and come to an agreeable conclusion.
“I don’t look at the problem,” White said. “I look at the solution.”
At municipal buildings and government offices throughout the county, White has been known for his dark clothing and signature cowboy hat, which he broke out for a NewtownPANow.com photo.
White, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, credited his experience as a home builder for some of his success at the RDA, noting he knows construction and how to negotiate a deal.
“It’s easy to spend other people’s’ dollars, but I treated that money as if it is my own,” he said.
Taking over as acting executive director will be longtime Deputy Director Jeff Darwak, who has been with the RDA since 2007.
White said Darwak has been an asset to the RDA and will be a strong leader.
“Since joining the agency, Jeff has consistently demonstrated excellent judgement and played a major role in nearly all aspects of the authority’s operations,” Schafer said. “With Jeff as the acting executive director, the board is confident we will continue to be an agency of action.”