From time to time, we will be interviewing Chamber & CREDC staff members so you can get to know a little more about us – our hobbies, our career paths, where we grew up. First up is President & CEO, David Black. David has served in his current position since 2001. Read to learn more…..
QUESTION: Where did you grow up?
ANSWER: Clarion, PA – great little college town in Northwest PA, kind of Norman Rockwell meets Grizzly Adams kind of place. My grandparents lived up the street, lots of extended local relatives, etc. My father was a Merchant Marine. He graduated from Clarion High School in 1942, but failed his physical for military service due to a broken arm as a child that never healed correctly, so he joined the Merchant Marines to serve and got hooked. At the time, I didn’t know it was unusual for your father to be away for months, even years at a time. When we were young, he was shipping to India. About twice a year, we would load in the Buick Station Wagon (I was the oldest of 4, two brothers and a sister) with my mother and usually grandmother and drive to Hoboken, NJ to meet Dad’s ship and spend time in New York City while there. When I was in Junior High, he became a Captain and shipped to Vietnam, so we would fly to San Francisco. So in addition to quaint Clarion, I was exposed to places like New York City and San Francisco.
QUESTION: What activities did you participate in when attending high school?
ANSWER: Tried sports, but I was really uncoordinated! And I did really enjoy basketball. I participated in choir and high school plays, etc. In case you haven’t figured it out, loved everything around theater acting, producing, writing even back then. I had an interest in politics in high school as well. I graduated from Westminster College just north of Pittsburgh in Speech Communications & English, with a minor in fraternity life. Later in life, I did graduate work at Slippery Rock towards a Master’s in Public Administration. Came real close to finishing, but moved to Harrisburg
QUESTION: Can you tell us about your first job out of college? Your career?
ANSWER: I did teach, I substitute taught for a couple of years along with some odd jobs before running for public office in 1979. I was 26 when I was elected to the county row office Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphan’s Court. It was a small county – they combined a lot of jobs. It was more fueled by my interest in politics than interest in the position. We were one of the first counties in PA to have electronic access to land record indices and this was back in the early 1980s. The knowledge I gained in that job really has helped me in everything I have done since, including understanding local, county, state and federal government much better.
I went on to challenge an incumbent Democrat for a State House seat in 1986 as the Republican nominee, probably one of the best things I ever decided to do. I got thumped in the election, but the following year was appointed then elected County Commissioner. I was 33 at the time and re-elected 4 years later. I really learned a lot there, worked to understand budgets better and started my graduate work – which was really helpful because I could apply class assignments to my real work. That is also when I got involved with economic development, both on a county level as well as on a regional level with the Northwest Regional Planning & Development Commission.
I made a lot of friends throughout the state that I still have today. That’s how I met then Congressman Tom Ridge. I chaired the Loan Review Committee and eventually chaired the Commission. In 1995, we moved to the Harrisburg Region to work in the Ridge Administration first at the Department of Community Affairs then DCED when the departments merged. Every day presented a new challenge and a new opportunity from the merger of the departments, to KOZ and other projects I had the opportunity to work on over the years. I also had the opportunity, in my last year with Governor Ridge, to help chart the future course for the Team PA Foundation and am happy to see it is still productive today. The Chamber & CREDC was a great place to go after service with Governor Ridge.
QUESTION: What is one word you would use to describe yourself?
ANSWER: Catalyst – I am always about positive change, bringing people together, charting a course for the future. I have to say I use the word, blessed, as well. I have a wonderful family and have had great jobs over my career that I have truly loved. These jobs allowed me to meet, interact and make great friends along life’s journey and hopefully made and continue to make a difference.
QUESTION: What are your hobbies?
ANSWER: I play golf badly, but still enjoy it. When on vacation, I read a lot. I love biographies and historical fiction.
QUESTION: How did you meet your wife? What are your kids up to? Grandchildren?
ANSWER: Shirley and I met doing community theater back in Clarion – she was teaching at the high school. We have two grown children. Erin is Dean of Students at one of the schools in the Mechanicsburg School District. She and her husband Todd have a 2 year old daughter who we thoroughly enjoy. Jon works for the Republican National Committee in analytics. He and his wife Jessica are moving back to the Harrisburg region in early 2017.
QUESTION: What is one thing no one really knows about you?
ANSWER: I spent about a year in the Public Finance field between marketing to governmental entities.