- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

John R. Tydings will retire this year as president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, ending a 32-year career with the regional chamber of commerce.

Mr. Tydings, 60, said he wants to leave before the board begins a major update of its program of work next year. He also said he wants to give his successor a chance to help decide whether to renew the lease on the group's headquarters at 1129 20th St. NW, which expires next year.

"Those decisions should be made by someone with a longer commitment" to the Board of Trade, Mr. Tydings said.

He said he also wants to spend more time with his wife, a career counselor at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., who is retiring this year.

Mr. Tydings announced his retirement, which will take effect by Dec. 31, to the group's board of directors yesterday.

David W. Rutstein, a D.C. lawyer and past chairman of the Board of Trade, will oversee the search for Mr. Tydings' replacement. Mr. Rutstein said the group will hire an executive search firm to find candidates, although the position also will be open to other Board of Trade employees.

Mr. Rutstein said he did not know how long the search would take or how much it would cost.

The Board of Trade is a regional chamber of commerce for the D.C. area. It has about 1,500 members and an annual budget of about $5 million.

Mr. Tydings came to the group in 1969 and became president in 1973. Over the years, he developed a reputation as a behind-the-scenes power broker. But he sometimes found it difficult to bring together leaders from the District, Maryland and Virginia, which often compete with each other to attract jobs.

Mr. Tydings said one of his proudest accomplishments was his work to help develop the concept for the MCI Center sports-and-entertainment complex downtown. "I'd like to be remembered as someone who made things happen," he said.

A D.C. native, Mr. Tydings said his toughest years were the mid-1980s, when the city's high crime rate and crumbling neighborhoods made the city the butt of jokes.

Replacing Mr. Tydings will not be easy, said the board's current head, Potomac Electric Power Co. Chairman and Chief Executive John M. Derrick Jr.

"He's never pursued the [self-promotion] of John Tydings. He has only ever had the Board of Trade's interests at heart," said Mr. Derrick, who has known Mr. Tydings since they worked together at Pepco in the 1960s.

Mr. Derrick singled out the creation of the Potomac Conference, a group of business leaders from the District and its suburbs who work to solve traffic and other regional problems, as one of Mr. Tydings' legacies.

"It's difficult to single out one thing. His contributions have been immense," Mr. Derrick said.

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