NCC Chamber honors Byrd, Tiberi at annual dinner
WILMINGTON – The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce recently honored former legislator and longtime statehouse lobbyist Bob Byrd with its annual Lifetime Achievement award while bestowing Dave Tiberi its Community Service award for his pandemic-response efforts via Donate Delaware.
The awards were presented April 26 at the chamber’s 99th annual dinner, its largest fundraiser of the year that typically draws hundreds to a ballroom banquet. For the second year in a row, however, the pandemic forced the chamber to hold the event virtually with pre-recorded speeches and presentations.
Byrd, a partner at the New Castle-based firm ByrdGomes, has been involved in Delaware’s political circles for nearly five decades. He was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives in 1974 at age 25, served two terms and finished his legislative career as majority whip.
After leaving the statehouse, he served in several executive roles at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce until branching into full-time lobbying in 1988. Since then, he’s become one of the most respected and well-known fixtures at Legislative Hall, where he can often be found perched in a second-floor hallway during sessions.
ByrdGomes continues to represent the interests of some big Delaware players, including Verizon, Anheuser-Busch, Dover Downs, Artesian and the Delaware Business Roundtable.
“He’s hard working. He doesn’t get ruffled under any circumstance. And he knows how to take on the high, hard fastballs,” said Dennis Rochford, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, another ByrdGomes client.
Byrd, who recently published a book on his career and its inside look at Delaware politics, thanked the many colleagues and governors he worked with along the way during his successful career. He especially thanked former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who was a House colleague of the young legislator in the early 1970s and later appointed Byrd chair of the Delaware Economic & Financial Advisory Council, the independent analyst board that sets the state’s budget parameters.
“Follow your dreams. I was a kid from Elsmere and I was able to turn what was my hobby, politics, into a very successful career,” he said in accepting the chamber award, encouraging others to work hard for their goals.
Byrd also encouraged the audience to embrace change, noting that fax machines didn’t even exist when he first started his career.
“It’s been my privilege to work on most public policy issues for all these years, working with clients and the citizenry. I hope I’ve been able to make a difference,” he said.
Tiberi, president of Emergency Response Protocol in Newport and a retired professional boxer, has spent years serving community efforts and nonprofits. When the pandemic struck, he teamed up with friend Richard Piendak to form Donate Delaware to coordinate donations and distribution of sought-after personal protective equipment (PPE). To date, it’s supplied over 1.7 million PPEs to hospitals, schools, nursing homes, youth organizations, and first responders throughout Delaware.
“He has provided more support to the state of Delaware through his community efforts than any other individual I can think of,” said Colleen Morrone, president and CEO of Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County.
In accepting the award, Tiberi credited the help and collaboration of a whole host of partners, companies and volunteers.
“Looking out for others, be it in my security business or volunteer work, is part of who I am,” he said.
The annual dinner’s theme was “recovery, unite and rebuild,” as it looked toward the end of the pandemic. A trio of keynote speakers gave their thoughts, including Leadership Delaware CEO Jennifer Cohan, WSFS Bank Chairman, President & CEO Rodger Levenson and WRK Group CEO Logan Herring.
Cohan, whose organization trains the state’s next leaders, said that we should all learn from the lessons of the pandemic, including how to disconnect every so often. She noted that the pandemic has upended careers for many women and minority communities, as well as schooling for our youth. Leaders too will need to be retrained, Cohan said.
“Post-pandemic, leadership traits are going to be different,” she said. “Telework is here to stay. Some companies are never going back into the office, so that’s going to require a different type of leadership.”
Levenson, whose bank processed 2,200 federal Paycheck Protection Program loans worth $420 million for Delaware businesses, said that he was proud to see how the business community responded to the public health crisis.
“Businesses throughout the state pivoted on short notice to safely keep their doors open and provide customers with the products and services they expected,” he said. “The result was fundamental changes to how businesses operated. Business leaders adapted, peering through a different lens to not only see what their business is, but what it needed to become. They leaned on their strengths and relationships to make it all work, and we can all learn from how they did it.”
Herring, whose group is undertaking a dramatic redevelopment of the Riverside community in Wilmington, told attendees about a young man who lost his mother and friend to violence in the city. After seeing there was nothing left for him in Wilmington, the young man moved away, reminding Herring of the importance of work to be done here.
“We may have not contributed to the current conditions, but we are surely in a place to contribute now to help us recover and rebuild. But first, we must do one thing: we must unite,” he said.