Dick DiSabatino Award Presented to Robert L. Byrd at State Chamber Annual Dinner

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In a surprise announcement at the 187th Annual Dinner, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce presented The Honorable Robert L. Byrd with the esteemed Dick DiSabatino Award. The event was attended by 1,100 business, community, and government leaders.

The Dick DiSabatino Award, named for former DSCC Chair Richard DiSabatino Sr., was established in the mid-1990s to recognize significant contributions to shape opinion and public policy in the state of Delaware. The rarely given honor was last presented in 2021 to the Honorable Margaret Rose Henry. Prior to that, the award was given to former State Representative Joseph G. DiPinto and to John H. Taylor Jr., executive director of the Delaware Public Policy Institute (DPPI).

“It’s a universal truth in Delaware politics that when you need advice, you call Byrdie,” said President Joe Biden in a congratulatory letter to Byrd. 2024 marks Byrd’s 50th legislative session. Byrd has spent a lifetime in Delaware politics, having grown up with his mother—Helen G. Byrd—involved in politics. He ran for the Delaware House of Representatives in 1974 and at that time was the youngest person ever elected to the Delaware General Assembly. During his tenure in the House, his colleagues elected him to serve as majority whip.

Considered a “Jedi Master of government arts,” some of his most notable achievements include the legalization of slot machines and his involvement in one of the state’s most important pieces of legislation, the Delaware Financial Center Development Act of 1981 which created over 40,000 jobs and established Delaware as a financial hub.

“I believe ubiquitous is the best word to describe Bobby Byrd’s presence and influence on Delaware politics and public policy,” said Rich Heffron, former president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. “Everything political in this state has revolved around Byrd in some way. He knows Delaware inside and out and is the epitome of working with both sides of the aisle to coordinate what’s best for Delaware.”

His leadership talents were recognized by then-Governor Ruth Ann Minner who appointed him to serve as chair of the Delaware Economic & Financial Advisory Council, the group responsible for the revenue projections that have kept the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget balanced year after year. “Bob always has a pragmatic view of DEFAC’s role. He knows economic policies are shaped by political realities—the challenge for a healthy Delaware economy is balancing both components,” said DEFAC Chair Michael Houghton. “Bob still serves on DEFAC and his no-nonsense approach continues to help ensure Delaware’s economy remains robust.”

After serving in the General Assembly, Byrd became a lobbyist for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce in 1977 until he moved into private practice at Wood Byrd & Associates in 1987, and ultimately starting his own government relations firm—The Byrd Group, now ByrdGomes—in 2009, where he has represented several nonprofit agencies. Byrd is still very active with the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, serving on and chairing multiple committees. He has also sat on the Board of Governors since 1993.

“The Dick DiSabatino Award has always been given to a leader – regardless of party – who always puts Delaware first ahead of any political or personal gain,” summarized Governor John Carney. “For the past half-century, nobody has been better than Bob Byrd in developing solutions to public policy problems. He always puts the best interests of the State of Delaware first, and the business community and his clients second. And it’s never been about him. He’s always been motivated to do what’s best for Delaware.”

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