Sunday, April 20, 2014
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The Workforce: Randal Baron, Historic Preservation Planner

What do your taxes pay for? It’s Our Money is getting to know some of the 25,000 people who provide city services in Philadelphia, to find out what they do, how much they get paid, and how their work affects you.

The Workforce: Randal Baron, Historic Preservation Planner

What do your taxes pay for? It’s Our Money is getting to know some of the 25,000 people who provide city services in Philadelphia, to find out what they do, how much they get paid, and how their work affects you.

Who: Randal Baron, Historic Preservation Planner III

Salary range: $55,872-$71,836

Randal Baron sees buildings the way they were.

Since he was young, Baron knew he wanted to fix up existing buildings, but wasn’t sure what field to enter to do it. Architects built new buildings, and his undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Letters weren’t getting it done.

After receiving his Masters of Science and Historic Preservation from Columbia University, Baron eventually found his way to the City of Philadelphia’s Historical Commission as an executive secretary. At first, his job was to write minutes at meetings and create reports about the importance of specific historic buildings in Philly. But he climbed the ladder and his now one of the main people charged with protecting the historic feel of the city.

What he does

There are 20,000 historically designated buildings in Philadelphia, and Baron’s job is to keep Philadelphia’s historic look, even when the construction is new.

Anyone looking for a permit to alter a historic building can’t acquire it without the Historical Commission’s approval. Small changes – such as if a homeowner wants to install new flowerbed holders to a historic home – need approval from the commission.

“We work with people to find a way their needs can be met, but also preserve the historic resource of Philadelphia,” Baron says. “We do this because of the value in terms of tourism, but really, many, many people love Philadelphia and live here and work here because they love the environment.”

If a company or person needs help reconstructing the original exterior of a historic building, Baron is available to recommend materials and resources to do so.

For example, he and his team helped reconstruct the old look of the original Reading Terminal Headhouse from old photos and drawings located in the Historical Commission’s library.

How he lives

“In general, the things that are true about working for government are true for me,” Baron says. “The pay may not be as high as it could be for the private sector, but you do have the benefit and joy of doing something that is good for the whole city.”

Only 52, Baron says he could retire at 55 but may well spend the next decade for working at the Historical Commission.

“I’m a person who enjoys working,” Baron says. “I do enjoy what I do, and I think I will be staying longer, but you never know.”

Feeding his pension by working longer is also an important factor for Baron.

“I wasn’t born wealthy. If I stay longer, I will have more of a pension.”

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About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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