DENVER | Neil Westergaard, a former executive editor of The Denver Post and longtime editor of the Denver Business Journal, has died. He was 67.
Westergaard died Sunday following heart surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital, the Post reported Monday.
Westergaard earned numerous awards during a Colorado journalism career in which he served as executive editor at the Post from 1993 to 1996 and editor-in-chief of the Journal from 1999 until his retirement in 2018.
Under his leadership, the Journal’s awards included national honors from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.
The Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored Westergaard with its Lowell Thomas and Keeper of the Flame awards for lifetime achievement. He was a member of the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame.
“Neil was a great man who loved his family, his friends and his community. He was happiest when he was stirring up the waters in Denver and Colorado politics,” his wife, Cindy, said in a statement Monday. “We’ve lost a great journalist.”
Westergaard was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Northern Colorado. He worked at several newspapers in Colorado Springs and Greeley before joining the Post, where he spent 14 years, including as executive editor from 1993 to 1996.
Under his leadership, the Post emphasized beat and local reporting and breaking news in its daily competition with the former Rocky Mountain News, said Mark Harden, a longtime colleague of Westergaard and managing editor of Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Gazette of Colorado Springs.
“Neil was the kind of editor who not only wanted the newspaper to be better but the people who worked at the paper to be better,” Harden said. “He was a remarkable man who loved the news and who loved talking about the news. He loved getting into the community and talking to people about things that mattered to him.”
Vince Bzdek, editor of the Gazette who worked with Westergaard at the Post, said Westergaard was “always thinking of his troops. Once when I asked him for his single, most important piece of newspaper management advice, he said simply: ‘Take care of your people.’ ”
Westergaard left the Post and worked with what is now Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado. In 1999, he began his 18-year stint as editor-in-chief of the Denver Business Journal.
In addition to his wife, Westergaard is survived by a son, Ben, and a daughter, Rachel.
Harden said Westergaard’s family planned a private service and would announce a public remembrance at a future date.
Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com