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New West finance director retires after two decades at the helm

After two decades as the City of New Westminster’s chief number cruncher, Gary Holowatiuk has called it a day.
Gary Holowatiuk
Gary Holowatiuk recently retired as the City of New Westminster's finance director, after overseeing the city's finances for two decades.

After two decades as the City of New Westminster’s chief number cruncher, Gary Holowatiuk has called it a day.

Holowatiuk recently retired as the city’s director of finance and information technology, a post he’d held for most of his 21 years with the city.

“I have had a wonderful career here at the City of New Westminster. It’s been both an honour and a privilege to serve the citizens of this fine city over the last 20 years. The work has been challenging and it has been rewarding, but it really has been the people I have worked with here at the city council, colleagues and a lot of friends I have made that have made the journey so very enjoyable and memorable,” he said. “As the saying goes, a good time to retire is before it’s too late to have a good time.”

In addition to leading the city’s annual budget process, Holowatiuk was involved in a number of city initiatives including converting to a new citywide business system in 2002/2003, exploring the potential for the tall ships to sail into New West in 2002 (a proposal that was ultimately rejected because of cost concerns), preparing for the Year 2000 threat of a shutdown of all of the city’s computer systems with the arrival of a new millennium and providing financial guidance on the city’s plan to build the $88.3 million Anvil Centre civic facility and office building.

“Anvil Centre – it was five years of trials and tribulations. At the end of the day, I have to give council a lot of credit for taking on a big project,” he said. “It definitely had some risks involved. But what a wonderful legacy for the city and the residents, and future generations too.”

During his time with the city, Holowatiuk was often the MC at city functions and retirement parties for retiring employees.

“I have always liked to pull little stunts,” he said. “Sometimes it’s roastings, sometimes it’s little gags. Whatever, just to make it a little more memorable.”

Fellow employees at city hall turned the tables on Holowatiuk in the weeks leading up to his retirement, pulling a number of pranks such as popping off some of the letters on his keyboard and placing them in the wrong locations – so nothing he typed came out as it should.

During his tenure with the city, Holowatiuk put on a number of Halloween skits in his office – Account Dracula, Doctor De Books and Hell’s Kitchen.

“This time we had the fog machine going and we had some real dry ice bubbling away on the pot there. It was just for fun,” he said of Hell’s Kitchen. “Coming from an accounting background, people always thought you had a dry personality, but I’ve got a bit of a sense of humour so I thought, what better way to show it than by having a little bit of fun? Halloween has always been a neat time of the year. My daughters love that stuff. They have always been working to help me out.”

Prior to pursuing a career in finance with the City of New Westminster and BDO Dunwoody, Holowatiuk worked in fisheries biology – work that was fun and interesting, but wasn’t particularly conducive to family life as he worked out in the bush for long stretches of time. He credits wife Denise for allowing him to return to school to pursue a career in finance.

“I had taken some business courses when I was at Langara College, before I went to UBC for my biology degree. I enjoyed business so I went back, immersed myself in it, worked really hard, took a whole year off of work altogether,” he said. “Only through Denise shouldering the responsibility of the family and bringing in the income was I able to make that switch.”