Veteran Palm Beach County planning director at a crossroads

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - In the face of criticism, a veteran Palm Beach County planning director is at a crossroads.

Turn the page on a lifetime of public service?

Or retire, collect a sizable pension and re-apply for his job?

That is the decision Randy Whitfield, the director of the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he faces.

"I have been a public servant my entire career," Whitfield told WPTV NewsChannel 5. "I don't expect to come back for what I'm making today. I expect to come back as if I'm competing with anybody else who's applying for the job at whatever that starting salary is."

Whitfield, who is enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, is required to retire when he turns 62 in February.

He has earned a one-time payout of $465,000 and a monthly retirement check of $7,000, but with several projects left unfinished, he said he intended to re-apply for his job and accept a lower salary.

Among the projects he said he wanted to see through were the expansion of Tri-Rail to Jupiter and the creation of a second commuter rail line that would connect the downtowns of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

"Right now, those things are getting closer to fruition," he said. "There is still a lot of work to be done and I'd like to be part of getting that done to make sure that actually happens. There is still a lot of life in me … and I would like to continue working."

Whitfield would have to wait six months to re-apply for his position after he retires.

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