Every month, the Planning Commission highlights one of its staff members. Assistant Director David Ward, AICP is retiring from his job here at the end of December after 42 years of service. He has been a driving force behind smart growth and good planning in the county over the past four decades.
David has been a familiar face around the county, and he will be missed. Learn more about his life, career, and future plans.
Where are you from? I was born into a railroad family (Pennsylvania Railroad) and moved 13 times before I was in high school. I lived in very diverse places, including Chicago, Baltimore, Terre Haute, Fort Wayne, and Lansdowne. The constant change of place got me interested in how towns developed and how different customs are around the country.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? From an early age I either wanted to be a forest ranger or some job that involved towns.
What was your first job in planning? This one
What did you study in college? I have an undergraduate degree from Penn State in environmental resource management with a minor in planning and a master’s degree in public administration and urban and regional planning at West Chester University.
How did you get into planning? An AP high school teacher introduced me to the profession and allowed me to do an independent project studying public buildings in Philadelphia.
How did you arrive at the Chester County Planning Commission? Through my dentist! He was involved in government and was aware that the county Planning Commission had a new director and was looking to hire some planners. Then state-Rep. Samuel Morris also approached me at a public meeting and encouraged me to apply for a job at the county’s Planning Commission. Rep. Morris said to me, “You seem to have an interest in the future of Chester County. You should become a planner.”
What’s were some of your most memorable projects here? The three Landscapes plans and the staff picnics
What has changed in planning since you first started? Everything! The office location (the office moved three times – Courthouse North Wing/Dague Building/Government Services Center), the technology (no computers existed when I started), and the people (over 220 staff members have worked with me during my career).
What do you plan to do in retirement? I plan to remain very busy during retirement. That will include working on home projects I have deferred for years, visiting family and friends around the country, and keeping my foot in planning by continuing to teach planning courses through the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI).
Was it a tough decision to retire? The decision was easy. When to do it, and how to say goodbye to such an amazing staff, was very difficult.
What will you miss most about your job? I know it’s an old cliché, but I will miss the people and the partnerships I have developed over 42 years. They have kept the job interesting and hopefully allowed me to make a difference.
What three words best describe you? dedicated/compassionate/retired!
What is something colleagues don’t know about you? My middle name is Dwight. I am named after President Eisenhower. Also, I’m involved in Scouting and was a scoutmaster for a Troop for six years.
What is your life philosophy? No problem is too big. There’s always a solution out there.
Who has influenced you? Everyone I have come in contact with. If there was one person to identify, it would be the person who first hired me, George Fasic.
What is your favorite place in Chester County? Besides my own backyard…Natural Lands’ Stroud Preserve
Where would we find you after hours? In my garden or woodshop
What’s the last book you read? “The Johnston Gang” by Bruce Mowday