DESERT HOT SPRINGS – Richard Cromwell III, whose name is synonymous with Sunline Transit Agency and has been described as a Renaissance Man, died at Desert Regional Medical Center on Feb. 17, according to his son. He was surrounded by his family.

Richard Cromweell

Richard Cromwell

In early 2019, Cromwell was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) which is a type of lung disease, according to his son Gerald Cromwell who wrote about it on Facebook. In October of 2019 the elder Cromwell’s health drastically declined and he was bed-ridden at his home.

Earlier this month, Cromwell suffered cardiac arrest and fell. One of his sons, Rich, and his wife, Brit, were able to get to him, resuscitate him and paramedics transported him to the hospital. After fighting for several days in the hospital, physicians informed the family Cromwell’s heart was failing and he would not recover, according to Gerald.

Cromwell and his wife first moved to Palm Springs in 1970 when Cromwell had the opportunity to open a department store called Walker Scott. He served as vice president and general manager for five years. He later moved to Harris Department Stores as general manager of the Indio location.

After the stores closed in the 1980s, Cromwell found another opportunity at Sunline Transit Agency, where he became the Director of Transportation and eventually became the General Manager and CEO.

He led the Agency to become the first transit agency in the country to convert its entire fleet from diesel to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and he put the first fuel cell bus into service. During his time at Sunline he met T. Boone Pickens and helped form Clean Energy Fuels with its main goal to reduce pollution in the transportation industry.

Former Indio Mayor Michael Wilson served as chairman of the Sunline Transit Agency board of directors.

“Dick Cromwell was a transportation visionary who brought Sunline Transit Agency to new levels during his time as general manager,” Wilson told Uken Report. “The current hydrogen bus program was an element of future technology that Dick Cromwell saw had potential as a clean air alternative and brought the program to Sunline Transit Agency. Today, it’s a staple at Sunline Transit Agency as a current technology that’s producing clean air transportation on multiple buses in the fleet. Dick Cromwell was a visionary in his time, and will be missed.”

Indio City Councilmember Lupe Ramos Amith, who worked with the entire board at Sunline, told Uken Report that she was saddened to hear of Cromwell’s passing.

“Richard’s kindness and openness to work toward a regional coalition is what I admired most about him,” Ramos Amith said. “His contributions helped bring everyone together and he will be missed.”

As Tom Freeman pointed out in an opinion column for Uken Report earlier this week, Cromwell was not a perfect man.

In July 2003, Cromwell and financial officer Bill Maier were placed on paid administrative amid accusations that the agencies misspent public funds and falsified documents.

Cromwell left the Agency that year and started his own consulting company, Richard Cromwell III & Associates. He worked on various projects for the city of Desert Hot Springs.

He was constantly involved with the community, he served on the board of directors of United Way of the Desert, the Riverside County Fair, Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the Inland Cities Better Business Bureau Advisory Committee, Indio Chamber of Commerce, Riverside County Economic Development Council, and the Advisory Committee of Indio Community Hospital. He was also a member of the Clean Cities Coalition of the Coachella Valley. He was a member of the Desert Hot Springs Historical Society as well and his most recent project was the restoration of a historical rock house called “Pil-O-Rox.”

The Cromwell family is working on a Celebration of Life for the patriarch sometime in March. Details will be announced at a later time.

According to Gerald Cromwell, every time his Dad was impressed with something, he would say “that’s pretty showbiz.”

To those who knew him and worked with Cromwell, he was “pretty showbiz.”


Image Sources

  • Richard Cromwell at home: Facebook
  • Richard Cromwell: Facebook