He was an unflappable manager of people who got the best out of those around him.

Colin Whitlock sits in a long line of Whitlocks to have stamped their mark on their beloved Whanganui and he spent his 74 years adding plenty to that legacy.

The former Whanganui District Council chief executive, who died in January 24, is being remembered as

Whitlock attended Wanganui Technical College before beginning his working career with the Public Trust - a job which took him to Masterton for five years - the only time he lived outside Whanganui.


When he finished his accountancy qualifications in 1977, Whitlock joined the then Wanganui City Council as deputy city treasurer which began a sharp rise to the top.

Three years later he was promoted to treasurer and then rose to town clerk in 1984.

During the 1989 local government reorganisation that morphed into the chief executive role at the newly formed Whanganui District Council where stayed until retirement in 2005.

While he achieved much in that time, former colleague Kevin Ross, who would later sit in the same chief executive seat says "to me it was more about his personality".

"Unflappable," Ross says.

"I call him the consummate local government manager. He was always a professional, he was very considered and had a stable approach."

Alongside former mayor Chas Poynter the pair notched the country's second longest-serving combination of mayor and chief executive.

"Together they provided a really stable period of local government for Whanganui," Ross says.

The occupation of Pakaitore/ Moutoa Gardens came in the middle of Whitlock's tenure and defined both his nature and how adept he was at local body politics.

Poynter said of that time at Whitlock's council farewell; "Some people go through life without ever being truly tested. Colin was thoroughly tested during this time and came through with flying colours."

The then mayor Michael Laws also echoed those sentiments at the farewell.

"He has been the rock upon which any number of political administrations have relied. I doubt his record will ever be rivalled, let alone repeated."

Colin Whitlock was Whanganui District Council's longest serving chief executive.
Colin Whitlock was Whanganui District Council's longest serving chief executive.

Meanwhile, Ross credits Whitlock's people management with keeping himself - and others - at the council so long.

"Whenever I thought I was ready to move on or was looking for something else I found I was doing another job, which was refreshing," he says.

"He was a bit of an innovator. He was always looking for new ideas and new approaches to things that we thought we were doing okay.

"His real strength was that he was a delegator. He wasn't a micro-manager."

Those people skills are something Whitlock's son Andrew said his father had plenty of and displayed in his family life too.

"To be honest, in the 47 years that I've known him, I've never ever seen him angry," Andrew Whitlock says.

"Very calm sort of guy, rationale, would help out wherever he could. Just a loving dad really.

"He got the best out of people."

Whitlock contributed plenty to Whanganui outside of his council work and was involved in a range of things from the Jaycees, Rotary, golf clubs.

He was a life member of the YMCA and a Justice of the Peace.

"You name it," Andrew Whitlock says.

"I remember growing up as a young fella, you wouldn't really see Dad that much. He worked during the day time and in the evenings he'd be at all sorts of meetings.

"He loved this city. Not just through his job. He supported the city in all sorts of ways.

"The thing is with dad, he was a very humble guy. You didn't hear it from his mouth, you saw it from his actions."

Colin Whitlock is farewelled from the Whanganui District Council in 2005 after 21 years in the top job. Photo/ File
Colin Whitlock is farewelled from the Whanganui District Council in 2005 after 21 years in the top job. Photo/ File

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall says Colin was "such a big figure in town".

He was always very encouraging to me when I began on council when I saw him in the street.

"I think an important thing was some of the people he brought through on the staff who are still working here today."

Whitlock - of the Whitlock family which started the famous sauce and pickle company in Whanganui - had two children with June, his wife of almost 50 years, and had four grandchildren.

Andrew Whitlock says his father was proud to be from Whanganui.

"Generations of his family have grown up here and he's added to that legacy."