A Caldwell County native and longtime head of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments leaves behind a legacy of civic cooperation that improved the entire Hickory region, some who knew him said.

Richard Douglas Taylor, 79, who died on Thursday after a period of declining health, worked at the WPCOG for 37 years, 36 of which were spent as the organization’s first executive director. The WPCOG is a nonprofit organization that provides long-range planning and technical assistance to local governments in the region.

WPCOG Executive Director Anthony Starr said that while Taylor’s name might not be stamped on the sides of any buildings, Taylor helped reshape the Unifour region.

“Doug’s legacy is profound within this organization and the region,” he said. “He dedicated much of his life to assisting local governments and improving the lives of residents in the communities throughout our region.”

In a press release, the WPCOG called Taylor “instrumental in the history of the WPCOG and led the organization to become one of the strongest and comprehensive councils of governments in the United States.”

Dee Blackwell, who succeeded Taylor as executive director in 2008, said that Taylor showed himself to be an effective leader in the almost 40 years that they spent together.

“He did what he said he was going to do. He expected you to do what you said you were going to do,” Blackwell said. “He was consistently patient.”

From 1970 until his retirement in 2008, Taylor grew the WPCOG from one to 43 employees and he facilitated hundreds of grants to promote infrastructure, housing, economic development and job creation in local communities that totaled several hundred million dollars.

Taylor grew up in Lenoir and attended Oak Hill School for 12 years. He attended North Carolina State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in transportation engineering.

Among the many achievements in Taylor’s career, the WPCOG highlighted his efforts to promote collaboration between municipalities, including organizing the first regular meetings of county and municipal elected officials.

He also jumpstarted the region’s first transportation plan and established the WPCOG as a public housing authority, now serving over 1,300 families as the largest housing authority in the region.

Jim Chandler, retired WPCOG public services director and assistant executive director, served under Taylor for more than 30 years and said that Taylor taught him that collaboration was the key to prolonged success.

“His leadership instilled in me and many others the importance of working together for the good of our region,” Chandler said.