President/COO of 12 years, Jerry Lepping, is retiring, and current vice president Paul Bencivengo will be promoted to the position on July 1
By Samantha Bambino
Since its inception more than 50 years ago, one organization has been working tirelessly to bring Bucks County to the forefront of the travel and hospitality industries — Visit Bucks County.
Diligently brainstorming behind-the-scenes on initiatives like Restaurant Week and the Ice Cream and Ale Trails are the dozen or so marketing masterminds who encompass the close-knit VBC staff. But as of June 30, the man who has proudly led the team for 12 years is saying, “Goodbye.”
On March 25, VBC’s board of directors announced that president/COO Jerry Lepping is retiring, and current vice president, Paul Bencivengo, will transition into the leadership role on July 1. Lepping will then serve as an adviser to the organization through November.
“Jerry has been a Bucks County resident for more than 40 years and served the tourism and hospitality industry for more than two decades,” said VBC board chairperson Bill Haas. “His commitment and dedication to Bucks County and the tourism office are unmatched. The board of directors are grateful for his years of service to the entire Bucks County hospitality industry.”
On the heels of this news, The Times spoke with Lepping about his vast and varied background, and plans for the next chapter of his life. Despite the bittersweet few months that await as he counts down his final days, Lepping continued to ooze a sense of pure happiness, as only one could who boasted a truly fulfilling career.
A Northeast Philadelphia native and 46-year resident of Green Valley Road in Langhorne with his wife Marie, Lepping graduated from Father Judge High School and attended several night classes at La Salle College. He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he spent three years in the Military Police and was a Judo hand-to-hand combat instructor.
Once home, Lepping worked in industrial and commercial sales at PECO for 15 years. But when an unprecedented opportunity to enter the restaurant industry fell into his lap, he jumped at the chance to hone his skills in yet another arena. Lepping owned several hospitality-related businesses, including the Anchor Inn (which burned down in Wrightstown six years ago), and the Clubhouse Bar & Grill in Newtown.
For nearly two decades, Lepping managed these locations before embarking on a new journey. As the owner of Atrium Travel in Newtown for 17 years, he served on the American Society of Travel Agents’ board of directors, which allowed him and Marie to explore much of the world.
Lepping’s diverse resume also includes working for Apple Vacations as a cruise representative, and Holiday Inn Select (now the Wyndham) in Trevose as director of food and beverage; managing the Face-Off Circle in Warminster; refereeing more than 200 college football games; and serving on the board of directors for TMA Bucks.
In 1998, with a slew of experience under his belt, Lepping was asked and elected to join VBC’s board of directors. In 2007, he was named president, and has proudly held the title ever since. For Lepping, it has been an honor to promote Bucks County — his home — to neighboring areas.
“I love the county. I’ve lived here since 1968. It’s just a great county, it’s well-run. It’s solid. And there’s so much to do. We have so much to offer when you consider all along the Delaware with the mansions, and then Bristol is really coming alive the past couple of years,” he said. “You’ve got Sesame Place, which is a big draw, especially with overnight guests. And then you have Washington Crossing Historic Park, which has really come back in the last 10 years. New Hope is a great spot, Doylestown with the history there. It’s an easy sell.”
To keep up with the growth of interest in Bucks County as a tourist spot, Lepping said VBC staff has nearly doubled during his reign as president.
“We’re able to do a lot more. We have a graphic designer in-house. A lot of stuff we do, we used to have to send out and wait a couple weeks. We had very little control over it. That was a big move. We got very heavily into social media, so we have three people doing that 24/7,” he said.
In addition to an expansion of the organization, Lepping named two achievements he’s particularly proud of — playing a major role in the building of the Bucks County Visitor Center in Bensalem, and the creation of the Visit Bucks County Grant Program.
“We started a grant program for nonprofit, tourism-related organizations,” he said, adding how more than $4 million have been distributed to 100 organizations in 11 years. “It’s quite substantial. Sometimes these smaller organizations, $1,000 means life or death for them.”
County Commissioner Chair Robert G. Loughery shared his gratitude for Lepping’s years of service.
“On behalf of the Bucks County Commissioners, I would like to thank Jerry for his leadership and significant contributions to Bucks County. Tourism is an invaluable part of our economy, generating nearly $1 billion in economic impact,” he said. “The hospitality industry makes our county a great place to live, work and visit. Jerry has assembled one of the best teams in the industry. Together, they have successfully driven local impact through job growth and tourism development by effectively marketing the area as a must-see destination.”
Though Lepping admitted he’ll miss his staff and more than 1,500 community partners, it simply seemed like the perfect time to retire. Lepping’s wife has a bad back and trouble getting around, so he’ll be able to help her…at least for a little bit.
“She said, ‘I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.’ So I have to leave for part of the day,” he said with a laugh.
Still, Lepping knows that he’s leaving VBC in good hands.
“I’ve witnessed tremendous growth in Bucks County over these past 12 years and I’m confident that under the leadership of Paul Bencivengo, this organization is positioned for continued success in the future,” he said. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com