Surrey force for finance dead at 79

City's former longtime chief financial officer Dennis Atkinson passed away March 5

Dennis Atkinson

Dennis Atkinson

A much-respected former longtime finance manager with the City of Surrey has died.

Dennis Atkinson served with the municipality for 32 years, first as an accountant, then eventually as the chief financial officer in charge of  Surrey’s books.

He retired in 1996.

Those at city hall who knew him well describe Atkinson as a unwavering force for finance. If he didn’t agree with a financial approach by councillors, he wasn’t afraid to stand up and make that known.

“If he thought council was heading off in the wrong direction, he would tell them in the most professional terms,” said former Surrey Mayor Bob Bose, who worked with Atkinson for years.

“Surrey was in an excellent financial position as a result of his tough approach to finances,” Bose said.

Atkinson worked with city manager Dan Closkey and together they were an unstoppable force, Bose said.

Former longtime Coun. Judy Higginbotham worked with Atkinson for 13 years, and said he was an amazing man and an incredible financial officer.

“He lived and breathed his job, and he was very responsible,” Higginbotham said.

He arrived in a time of fiscal turmoil, she said, adding he was able to right the budgetary ship.

“We built the Newton Wave Pool, which was a big deal in those days,” Higginbotham said.

In fact, the books were so good when he left, the following city council was able to embark on a decade-long freeze on property taxes.

Atkinson is described by family members as a kind, generous, social person who enjoyed watching his grandchildren at various sporting events.

“He was fully involved in the lives of his grandchildren, driving them to school, picking them up,” Bose said. “His family was absolutely everything to him.”

Atkinson died peacefully on March 5 at Surrey Memorial Hospital. He was 79.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Verna, four children (Lyle, Eric, Susan and Melanie), nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, seven brothers, two sisters and a large extended family.

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m. at the King’s Community Centre, 21783 76B Ave., Langley.