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Former Director of Planning Brian Rowlinson dead at 64

Former head of Planning Brian Rowlinson has died at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, following a long bout of illness. He was 64.

London-born and a diehard Arsenal fan, Mr Rowlinson made Bermuda his home 40 years ago, rising through the ranks at Planning to become synonymous with the Department.

“He was a status Bermudian, but he was considered a true onion,” recalled Kevin Petty, who employed Mr Rowlinson after his 2004 retirement from Government. “To me, and to a lot of other people, Brian Rowlinson was the very face of Planning.”

Government Estates Permanent Secretary Robert Horton said Mr Rowlinson’s thorough and outgoing personality resonated in on both Planning, and the Ministry of the Environment, where he served as Permanent Secretary from 1999 to 2004.

“His fellow Permanent Secretaries unhesitantly borrowed templates and methods of operation from him, as we viewed him as someone who was vastly experienced, effective and clear thinking, one who cut through the unnecessary and one who relentlessly pursued any outcome that was in Bermuda’s best interests,” Mr Horton remembered. “Even his departure from the public service was based on a strong belief that Bermuda Homes for People was a concept that was good for Bermuda.”

BHP ultimately pulled out of the Southside, St David’s affordable housing project, and Mr Rowlinson left the non-profit company in 2005.

He became general manager of Paterson Contracting, which Mr Petty owned. It was hoped Mr Rowlinson would return to the job there after a year of illness.

“He wanted to go to South Africa to catch the semi finals of the World Cup,” Mr Petty said. “We never got him back.”

Mr Rowlinson had family links to South Africa, where he was treated after suffering an aneurysm while on safari before the World Cup games.

His wife, Sylvie, and daughter Francesca, were constantly present, and the family hosted a fundraiser locally to cover their medical and travel expenses.

Recalled Senator Walwyn Hughes, who worked with Mr Rowlinson in the forward planning department: “Brian was enormously popular, and the turnout at that fundraiser showed how much he meant to people.”

Sen Hughes called his former colleague instrumental in the drafting of the 1992 Bermuda Plan.

Later, in the Ministry of the Environment, Mr Rowlinson helped in the joint purchase by Government and the Bermuda National Trust of protected land on Smith’s Island. The two also put together a guide for homeowners to the Island’s traditional architecture.

“Brian loved Bermuda passionately, and this was manifested in his work and private life,” said former Trust executive director Amanda Outerbridge

“Professionally, he had a clear understanding of the tension that sometimes arises between the competing needs of economic development, and protection of the fragile environment.”

In his early years abroad from the UK, Mr Rowlinson played an important role in planning for the city of Dubai, before coming to Bermuda.

Former Planning head Erwin Adderley remembered Mr Rowlinson deciding to travel on from the Island and being enticed back. Soon after, Mr Rowlinson met his wife, Sylvie, in Bermuda.

“Eventually, he became assistant director, and when I left in 1994, he took over from me,” Mr Adderley said. “We played together on a friendly football team called the Hairdressers.”

Friends recalled a larger-than-life individual with a passion for sports, plus a fondness for the Rolling Stones and Coldplay.

Remembering Mr Rowlinson as “a team player par excellence”, Mr Horton added: “He was great fun also, and loved a good party! He possessed a quick wit and an infectious sense of humour. We shall always recall with fondness those social gatherings when he would have us rolling in the aisles as a result of one of his droll stories.

“Bermuda’s civil service is so much richer as a result of Brian’s enormous contribution, his irrefutably sterling service. His legacy is a proud and powerful one. We are thankful that he was among us, and shall dearly miss him.”

Mr Rowlinson died on Tuesday night. It is believed that a memorial service will be held locally.

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Published November 25, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 25, 2011 at 7:24 am)

Former Director of Planning Brian Rowlinson dead at 64

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