Derek Robertson has just completed 42 years working in the municipal works field. It was back in 1978 when his father-in-law asked him over for Sunday lunch. During lunch he asked Derek if he wanted a job driving a truck at Preston Council, located within the then north west of metropolitan Melbourne. ‘No interview, no paperwork, just turn up on Monday’ his father-in-law told him. It is fair to say that recruitment processes in local government have progressed a fair way since the ‘good old days’ in 1978.
In a tradition that probably still exists in many municipal work depots today, Derek was called “son-in-law” for the first few years as a truck driver. In 1986 Derek was appointed to the Forepersons role, and in 1988 he was promoted to the Superintendent of Construction. Part of this role included the management of Preston Cemetery where he says he oversaw “thousands of people” albeit it that most of them were dead! Derek finished up at Preston in 1995 during the City of Northcote council amalgamation process. Derek recalls that ‘the City of Preston was sensational place to work with great people enjoyed every minute there’.
In 1995 Derek was interviewed for the Coordinator of Road Maintenance role at the City of Whittlesea. When he got home he told his wife that “they want superman for free, I hope they don’t ring and offer me the job”. As fate would have it they did ring back. After Derek’s first day at Whittlesea he told his wife that ‘I don’t want to go back’. She told him to “suck it up” and in Derek’s words he has been ‘sucking it up now for 25 years and growing’.
Derek joined the MWOA in the 1980’s initially to drive fellow members Bill Arnold and Harold Thompson to and from Branch Meetings. Derek recalls that ‘refreshments were abundant at these sponsored meetings and many a good time was had in the early days’. Derek was first elected to the MWOA’s Board in 1989 and remained a Board member until 2017. Along the way he serves as MWOA President from 2010 to 2015, and Board Secretary from 1998 to 2003. Derek was awarded life membership of the MWOA in 2005 in recognition of his tremendous service to the Association.
Derek has provided a significant contribution to both the MWOA and the municipal works industry. His legacy is reflected in the members he actively recruited. They MWOA’s current Finance Director Neill Whiteside (Brimbank City’s Director Infrastructure and City Services), and the MWOA CEO Peter Ali (formerly Manager City Presentation at the City of Whittlesea) are two MWOA members that are part of the long list of people that Derek ‘recruited’ over the years.
He has also gained a lot from his involvement with the MWOA, including making many long-time personal friendships, including former MWOA CEO Stephen Robertson Snr. Derek also recalls some memories that he will take to his grave, including Phil Batson’s Bus Field trips to see the Sydney Harbour Tunnel project, the Adelaide Grand Prix, and the Broken Hill Gold Mines. Derek also recalls attending his first TAMS conference in 1990. He has only missed two of them since and says that the TAMS members ‘are a great bunch of people, a great association’ and that he will always have ‘great memories of his trips to Tassie’.
Derek notes that the Association has changed with the times over the years. He will always be grateful to the people and the sponsors that make the Association what it is, and that he would not change a thing in his 32 years journey with the MWOA.
Derek, we are equally as grateful to you for your lifelong contribution.