Former city manager Collings remembered as decisive
By Anessa Myers
Published in News on February 13, 2009 1:46 PM
When retired Air Force Col. Kenneth Collings died Wednesday morning at the age of 87, he left many friends behind.
None much closer than Goldsboro Mayor Al King.
Collings served as Goldsboro's city manager from 1978 to 1986, and King remembers the day that Collings hired him to be the city's human resources director.
"I had never met him until that point," the mayor said. But from then on, the two were good friends.
"He would come to my office, shut the door and we'd talk," King said. "He'd confide in me. ... If there was a day that the City Council or the mayor was giving him a hard time, we'd talk about it."
Collings was a "tough man," King remembers, but a man who had a soft heart.
"I used to tell him that he had a lot of people fooled, that he was really a pussycat," the mayor said. "... He would ask me to sit in on meetings with employees, and they were scared, man, shaking. They would just sit there. But in the middle of these meetings, he would look at me and wink."
And although he ran the show at work -- and was known to walk the halls smoking a cigar -- the mayor said that Collings' first wife, Lucille, ran the show at home.
Several years ago, Collings tried to live in an assisted living home in Greenville, where he thought he would be able to do things like "play poker with the guys," King said. "He loves playing poker. ... But that (place) didn't work out. He didn't like that too much."
So Collings moved back to Rosewood after marrying his second wife, Ruth.
King went to visit his old friend Tuesday, a day before he passed, and said that he wasn't looking "too good," and said that he wished he hadn't so that he could keep his memory of a "tough man."
"He was my buddy," the mayor said.
And there is one thing about Collings that everyone is bound to remember -- "Ken Collings was Ken Collings," King said. "He let you know what he thought. He didn't sugarcoat anything."
Former Goldsboro City Manager Richard Slozak was another of Collings' friends.
He worked with him for eight years as the city finance director before shadowing him for the manager position.
"He was a fantastic mentor," Slozak said. "He was a very decisive individual. You had no problem knowing where he stood."
Slozak said that he learned a lot from his predecessor.
"He asked for input from his department heads. He was a good communicator," Slozak said. "... He taught me how to work with people, to know yourself and to tell people where you stood and why you stood there.
"He never put on airs."
Collings, his boss for a brief period of time, told everyone exactly what he thought and expected the same out of his employees.
Slozak remembers when he was working on the budget after just being hired as finance director, and there was a "large oversight."
"(Collings) asked me if I knew what I was doing, and I told him that I didn't, but I'd figure it out," Slozak said. "He didn't want you to lie to him."
But the colonel like to have fun and thought work should be fun.
"He did little things at staff meetings. He used to have this sardine can full of rubber fishing worms, and whoever had the biggest problem in the meeting that day got the can of worms," Slozak said. "... Ken believed in teamwork. He said that we were all in a leaky canoe, and if we didn't work together, we'd sink and fail."
Current Goldsboro Finance Director Kaye Scott remembers Collings well too.
"He was the city manager when I came to work for the city in 1979," she said. "He was a good man and a fair man."
When he'd walk down the hall, she'd ask, "How are you doing today, Col. Collings?" --"We all called him 'Col. Collings,'" Mrs. Scott said.
And his reply was always sort of a joke.
"He'd always say, 'Awful,' no matter how good of a day he was having," she said.
Col. Collings was called so by many of those at City Hall because of his 32-year military career, before his stints as Selma city manager for four years and then as Goldsboro city manager for eight.
He joined the Army Air Corps as an aviator cadet in 1942 and ended up at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base where he was base commander.
Family will receive friends tonight from 6 to 8 at Seymour Funeral Home. A service to celebrate his life will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church.
Collings will be buried at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.