April 20, 1954 – October 13, 2020
Planning in Memoriam
by Bihui Xu, AICP, Principal Planner, Kristen Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner, and Michael Paone, Planner, Frederick County Division of Planning and Permitting
David T. Whitaker, a talented and dynamic planner, and avid cyclist, passed away on October 13, 2020. Planners in Maryland lost a well-respected and well-liked colleague; and Maryland lost a passionate advocate for safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities across the state.
Many of you knew David during his twenty-eight years of distinguished career as a planner at the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning), the Frederick County Division of Planning and Permitting, the Frederick City Department of Planning, the Department of Planning in Loudoun County, VA, his volunteer roles in the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA), or from his participation in numerous other planning organizations and area non-profits.
Born in Chattanooga, TN, and raised in Maryland, David graduated from the University of Maryland with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Geography and Community Planning. He started his career as a planning technician in Frederick County in 1985, and went on to work in many aspects of the field, including zoning enforcement, land use and transportation, infrastructure, and comprehensive planning in both Maryland and Virginia over the span of his career.
The state’s consolidated transportation program, the Baltimore metro region’s long-range transportation plan and improvement program, the US 301 Transportation Study, the I-95 Master Plan Study, the Corridor Cities Transitway Study, the I-270/US 15 Multi-modal Corridor Study, and the Intercounty Connector Study are but a few examples of the plans, projects, and studies David participated in over the years.
In 2000, David joined Planning as Transportation Manager, when the state was in the midst of implementing Maryland’s smart growth laws. Having by this time worked on a number of major transportation studies, and the development of many local, state, and regional transportation programs, he brought to bear not only a tremendous wealth of knowledge, but also an outside-the-box approach to problem solving, policy review, and implementation. David was a very versatile planner and manager with strong professional ethics and deep integrity.
While at Planning, David represented the department on many state and regional planning committees such as the Maryland Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee; the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board and its subcommittees; the Baltimore Region Rail System Plan Advisory Committee; the Oversight Committee for the Baltimore Region 2030 Vision; and the Maryland Coordinating Committee for Human Services Transportation.
Over time, David also became manager of Planning’s role in the Interagency Commission for Public School Construction (IAC), and also contributed to in the areas of both grants administration and staff development. David also was known for his proactive role supporting more temporal efforts as needs arose.
In 2015, David was recruited by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner to take the lead on the award winning Livable Frederick Master Plan because of his familiarity with, and passion for, innovative planning practice. He was hired as the Chief of Comprehensive Planning at the Frederick County Division of Planning and Permitting.
David created a team approach to developing Liveable Frederick with the goal of producing a “living” document that would go far beyond the traditional land use issues typically found in a comprehensive plan. Throughout the process, David earned the respect of not only his own staff and colleagues, but also that of community leaders, business owners, and elected officials throughout the county.
David was known by many as a passionate cyclist. Together, David and his late wife, Kim Lamphier, were known in cycling circles as vigorous advocates for planning and constructing safe bicycle and pedestrian amenities across the state.
He was a member of the Potomac Peddlers and Bike Maryland. On Mondays, it was almost guaranteed he would fill his co-workers in with a detailed biking adventure from his weekend, including how he made a swift turn while speeding downhill, or intense inclines that would leave him out of breath.
Once, on a transportation project review fieldtrip, to demonstrate just how dangerous highways are for bicyclists, David (with helmet on) sped down a hilly highway alongside fast passing trucks. He more than made his point!
David claimed there wasn’t a major route in Maryland along which he had not pedaled. The best way to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the state is to bike its roads, he often said. His first-hand knowledge of cities, towns, scenic spots he’d visited across the state served him well in his planning work.
In their tribute, his family members described him having “a passion for history, especially the Civil War, [that he] would sometimes combine with his love of cycling by leading historical bike tours of battlefields.”
Always multi-faceted, David was also a talented musician, a master of the dobro. He played with numerous bluegrass groups over the years and prior to becoming a professional planner, he had made a living as a musician. He loved to play music at gatherings with family and friends, and even wrote a song for a beloved cat.
David was not only a colleague, but also a friend, to many with whom he worked. He could always be counted upon for good advice and support. He lifted up his colleagues, making them feel that their ideas and opinions mattered. He was kind and generous. This is evident in the many heart-filled tributes posted by friends and former colleagues on the Remembering David Whitaker Facebook site and his personal Facebook page.
David has been missed within the planning community ever since his retirement in 2017. However, the friendships, stories, and camaraderie that persisted well beyond the workplace will, without question, be missed most of all.