Len Lewis, 65, who was born a stone’s throw from Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, is the council’s electoral and civic services manager and as well as ensuring that local, national and European elections run like clockwork, is also responsible for the Mayor’s office.
He will call time on a career spent working across many parts of Lambeth Council on 6 July 2012.
In total, Mr Lewis has given nearly 48 years of service and was formally thanked for his contribution during a full council meeting on 20 June 2012, which means his service will enter Lambeth’s history books too as all council meetings are noted down for the borough record.
Mr Lewis, who plans to spend a lot more time with his wife, grandchildren, return his garden to its former glory and travel around Europe with his wife with the extra time he now has, said: “Like any job, it’s had its good times, and it’s challenging ones. I’ve met and worked with some wonderful characters and I’ve had the privilege of working on behalf of the place where I was born and grew up and watching it become the place it is today. I will miss many things about working at Lambeth, but I’ll especially miss the team I work with now, who are a fantastic group of people. Any achievements I’ve had in my job here would not have been possible without their help and I would like to thank them for that.”
Derrick Anderson, Chief Executive of Lambeth Council, said: “On behalf of all our staff and councillors, I would like to thank Len for his contribution and service to residents in Lambeth. To our knowledge, no one else has worked for Lambeth Council for such a period of time. Len’s is an incredible achievement and we all wish him an enjoyable and restful retirement.”
Mr Lewis, who was born in Effra Road, Brixton, started his service at Lambeth Council in August 1964 after shunning other potential career options in insurance because the daily commute to the City didn’t appeal.
He began work as a junior clerk in the then Town Clerk’s department and his role involved numerous administrative duties. In the 1970s, he worked as our central services manager, which meant he was in charge of keeping our buildings up to scratch amongst other things. In 1989, he started work in electoral services and that has been the mainstay of his work ever since.
He said: “My role has always involved elections in some way or another. I remember as a junior clerk – which was well before computers – we had to work overtime to handwrite every polling card. Can you imagine it? A group of us had to handwrite 220,000 cards in the week before the election.”
Mr Lewis has many tales to tell about his time at Lambeth and the personalities he has known, some of whom have gone on to become famous politicians on the national stage, like Ken Livingstone and John Major.
He remembers the aftermath of the first Brixton riots in 1981 and the impact it had as the saddest time of his career, but believes that Lambeth has changed dramatically for the better since he started working in local government.
While local government has changed a huge amount in the time Mr Lewis has been at Lambeth, he looks back in particular to the 1970’s as a golden era.
“I remember in the 70s the borough had a rule that an older person would be no more than half a mile from a library, or a luncheon club, or a day centre. Today, local government is more about helping people to look after themselves, but that stands out in my mind as something that worked well and was appreciated,” he said.
And in respect to office life, while the advent of technology has made working easier, Mr Lewis lamented it had made people less sociable. He said: “Technology has undoubtedly made life easier for us all, but it does mean that no one has proper conversations any more, it’s all done on email and that’s a shame. When I started working at Lambeth you knew who everyone was and what everyone did. The size of the council today means that’s no longer possible, but I do think that emailing has stopped proper conversation.”
Mr Lewis has retirement celebrations organised with colleagues and friends and family. In addition to being formally mentioned at full council, he was thanked for his contribution to the borough by Cllr Clive Bennett, the Mayor of Lambeth at a special presentation.
In August 1964, when Mr Lewis joined Lambeth Council, the Vietnam War was taking place and Mary Poppins had its world premiere. A pint of beer cost one shilling.