After 27 years of service, Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) President and CEO Walt Townshend announced his retirement effective Aug. 1.

“Walt has worked tirelessly to serve BWCC staff, members and their employees,” said Ray Plummer, BWCC board chair and a partner with the accounting firm of Bormel Grice & Huyett P.A. “He has been instrumental in BWCC’s incredible legacy in the region, and his day-to-day presence will be missed by the entire community.”

Townshend began working with the BWCC in January 1989, and his tenure marks the longest of any current Maryland chamber executive.

Under his leadership the Chamber was involved with managing Maryland’s first highway information center, creation and co-direction of Maryland’s first one-stop employment center, and creation and management of the nation’s first and only chamber-managed regional transit system, the Corridor Transportation Corp (CTC), later renamed Central Maryland Regional Transit (CMRT).

The transit system grew from 225,000 passengers in its first year to nearly 2 million passengers over the next 22 years.

Amazing CV

The BWCC developed a long-standing relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA) under Townshend’s leadership, and launched a Mathematics Symposium for math educators that evolved into a strategic alliance with the statewide organization Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM).

The Chamber’s annual Government Procurement Fairs, which he helped lead, became the largest chamber-led program in the region, focusing on small and minority business enterprises.

A registered lobbyist in Maryland, Townshend has served on the Maryland Chamber’s Legislative Committee and was involved in the stormwater management fee issue, sick and safe leave legislation and most recently, the Department of Labor’s regulation concerning overtime.

“I can think of few opportunities that provide more fulfillment than leading a chamber,” said Townshend. “Every day you have the opportunity to help businesses, nonprofits and institutions grow, link with one another and serve their own interests, as well as those of the region. I am blessed to have worked with hundreds of board members over my tenure, and to be mentored by nearly 30 board chairs.”

High Praise

University System of Maryland Foundation President and CEO Leonard Raley, a past chair of the BWCC Board of Directors, praised Townshend as being “the most principled and ethical business leader with whom I’ve worked, and yet so humble. He knows everyone, has the largest collection of phone numbers and contacts of anyone I know, and could open doors that nobody else could even find.”

Townshend’s tenure has had an impact on countless businesses both large and small, Raley said.

“He’s the type of person who always put members first, helping promote their businesses to grow, expand, locate here or be retained here,” he observed. “He would always find a way to be involved without fanfare, because he had a passionate interest in serving our region.”

Echoing the sentiments of other Chamber members, Raley said he finds Townshend’s retirement hard to fathom. “When we think of the BWCC, we think of Walt. His presence looms large. He’s been so interested in working to see the best opportunities for jobs to come here, and he’s been a strong advocate in watching out for the best interests of Prince George’s County as well. That’s leadership, and we’re fortunate to have worked with him.”

Man of Action

Townshend plans to take time off to enjoy retirement, but is also looking forward to be engaged in work that bridges education, government and business, serving the interests of Marylanders and creating new alliances. In addition, he plans to remain committed in assisting the Chamber as needed as it enters the next stage of its development.

Looking back, Townshend said a key memory would be his involvement with NSA.

“The mindset at the time was that we’re business and government is government, and never the twain shall meet,” he said. “That relationship has had a huge impact on the economy of the region.”

He’s also pleased with the outcome of his involvement with the Patuxent Research Refuge.

“They needed a water line when they built the National Wildlife Visitors Center,” he recalled, and his facilitation of a meeting with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) led to a mutual solution.

“WSSC needed a water tower and was able to build it on Patuxent,” he said. “It was actually the first time a water tower was situated on a National Research Refuge.”

One of his loftiest memories was a tandem skydive over Fort Meade with a member of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team.

“What’s kept me here is the people I’ve come to know and work with,” Townshend said. “I’ve had 30 bosses in 30 years, and we’ve all worked hard to accomplish a lot with the University of Maryland and the colleges in the area, various county agencies and economic development offices.”

The board will be conducting a search for the right candidate to replace Townshend and continue to serve the diverse needs of BWCC’s membership.

It is a common theme from everybody he’s touched: “Thanks, Walt, and best wishes.”