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Robert Powell, who helped pass Financial Center Development, is dead at 86

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Robert Powell, one of the key legislators behind the 1981 Financial Center Development Act, has died at the age of 86.

Powell was elected to the General Assembly in 1972. He represented the 23rd District in the northwestern tip of New Castle County. During his decade in the state legislature, he chaired the House Revenue and Finance Committee.

The committee helped pass the Financial Center Development Act (FCDA), which lifted interest rate caps and provided incentives for credit card companies to locate in Delaware.

Orlando “Lonny” George, state representative for the 1st district from 1974 to 1995, remembers Powell as epitomizing the “Delaware Way.”

“That meant you worked with both Democrats and Republicans and both upstate and downstate and you tried to make things better than they were,” he said. “I think that goes a long way toward explaining the success of the Financial Center Development Act.”

George described Powell’s role as helping the various stakeholders in the bill to come together and compromise.

“There was a meeting in the governor’s office one day with the president of one of the largest banks in the world. He looked around the room and made this comment that in Delaware you can get everyone together, the speaker of the house, the governor, business leaders, the mayor of the city and have a reasoned discussion,” he said. “Bob, of course, was a part of that.”

Sen. Tom Carper echoes the sentiment that Powell had a strong bipartisan streak.

“Bob was a Republican who liked to work with Democrats and Republicans, and to him, it didn’t matter what party the Governor was, Bob just wanted to work together to get things done. He was particularly good at creating a nurturing environment for job creation here,” he said. “Bob also had a wonderful sense of humor. When I was State Treasurer, and I would sign his checks, he would joke with me, ‘put a few extra zeros on it!’

“I remember him as a gentlemen, as very thoughtful and as a good soul,” said David Swayze, former chief of staff for Gov. Pete du Pont and a key player in working with the General Assembly to pass the FCDA.

Powell was later elected to the New Castle County Council in 1988. He died of cancer Feb. 20 in Fort Myers, Florida.

More information will be added to this story shortly.

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