Ken Winslade is one of those rare individuals who spent their whole life in a single community. He attended grade school in New Westminster, British Columbia, attended nearby University of British Columbia (UBC); started working for New Westminster as a part-time summer employee in the summer of 1959; became the city's recreation director in 1965; the parks and recreation administrator in 1970; and from 1997 until his retirement in 2003 he was the city administrator overseeing 10 departments and 550 full-time employees.
At UBC, Winslade was a star basketball player described by a writer in the contemporary press as "perhaps the finest guard in Canadian basketball" and he was invited to try out by the NBA's newly franchised Chicago Bulls. He was inducted into the UBC's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and the citation described him as: One of the UBC basketball's all-time great guards, was twice Western Canadian University scoring champion and led UBC to three Western Canadian championships including an undefeated season in 1960/61. A Canadian University championship was not being contested at that time but it would be difficult to imagine a better team than UBC or a better player than Winslade if it were.
While at UBC, in 1959 he was appointed summer program director at New Westminster, working under the direction of the recreation superintendent and the playground director. Upon graduation in 1961, Winslade was both the top graduating student in physical education and winner of the UBC outstanding athlete award for performance, sportsmanship and inspiration. He enjoyed his summer part-time job so much that he went back to UBC to complete a masters in recreation and park administration, and subsequently was appointed New Westminster's recreation director.
The New Westminster Parks and Recreation system achieved an enviable reputation for excellence. When an award was initiated recognizing the best system in British Columbia, New Westminster was the first winner of it. Under Winslade’s leadership the city's parks and recreation department changed the face of the city in numerous ways including: planting flower beds and hanging baskets throughout the city, planting over 8,000 boulevard trees; development of two community centres, an arena, a 50-metre Canadian Games indoor pool, and an innovative skate park; and redevelopment of the Arenex into one of the best public gymnastics facilities in the province. The city also acquired 50 percent more parkland at no cost to the taxpayer, developed the city's first waterfront greenway and esplanade and developed its first trail system in conjunction with SkyTrain. He was especially enthusiastic about efforts to beautify the city commenting, "People driving though our city should get a good feeling from the plants and shrubs planted along the way. It should inspire them to go home and plant their own flowers and plants."
Ken Winslade's style was thoughtful and deliberate. He didn't waste words, was a good listener, and his responses invariably were informative, innovative, strategic and carefully reasoned. He never sought accolades for accomplishments. He was regarded as a "pillar of wisdom and strength". Candor and integrity were hallmark qualities and there was always trust and respect for the divergent views of others. A former mayor observed, "He is stable and firm. He is consultative and inclusionary with staff. He is not afraid to make decisions but he makes them based on good information", while a city council member stated, "When he spoke, everybody got quiet, because whatever he said was always right."
He structured the parks and recreation department in a way that enabled managers and supervisors to have control of their jobs and use their own style, strengths, talents and personalities in performing their everyday work, beleving that "if they own it, they will take care of it." This style fostered a positive attitude, provided opportunity for personal growth, and ensured the work was perceived to be challenging and worthwhile. Winslade consistently emphasized that customer satisfaction was the purpose of every job and that it was the top priority of every employee. His policy was to promote from within, believing in "succession planning" and that continuity in staff was immensely valuable.
Ken Winslade provided leadership in a number of professional organizations in British Columbia, but he extended that leadership role across the border to the US with an extensive and sustained commitment to the Northwest Region of NRPA. He was the first Canadian to win NRPA’s Distinguished Professional Award and the only Canadian ever elected to the NRPA's Board of Trustees or to win a Pugsley Award.