Longest serving council officer retires
As international football legend Bobby Moore was lifting the World Cup for England in 1966, 16 year old Aylesbury lad Steve Nicholls was taking the first nervous step on his career ladder with Buckinghamshire County Council.
Now, 54 years on, Steve, who has risen through the ranks and is now believed to be the longest-serving member of staff, retired on Friday (4 September) having made the transition to the new unitary Buckinghamshire Council.
Steve joined the former County Council’s central printing team straight from Quarrendon School, Aylesbury, on an annual salary of £295, and was one of the first members of staff to occupy the newly-built Walton Street tower block in 1966.
He is the only council officer still serving who was present at the inauguration of the offices, and remembers standing on a balcony, now meeting rooms, to watch the opening ceremony by the then Housing and Local Government Minister Anthony Greenwood on 21 October 1966.
Steve has moved to work in several sectors across the council, including Social Services, Fire Services, Aylesbury Vale Education, and the Special Education Team, before joining the Schools Commissioning Team in 1986.
Having set up the Council’s first computerised pupil database single-handedly, inputting every child’s records, which streamlined card index record systems, Steve went on to manage projects as a Commissioning Manager, including a programme of investment of more than £20 million in Special Schools, which transformed run down schools into buildings that inspire learning and meet the needs of the County’s most vulnerable children.
Born in London, Steve moved to Aylesbury at the age of four where he grew up. After leaving Quarrendon School at 16 – ironically the school’s demolition would later be organised by the team with which he has been working – Steve started working for the Council after seeing the printing job advertised in his local newspaper, The Bucks Herald.
He says: “I am very proud to have reached 54 years’ service with the Council. I remember thinking how working for local government always offered good prospects: and it certainly did!
‘I vividly remember my first day, which was a bit scary at the time, but I have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people across numerous departments. One time I was lucky enough to meet the likes of Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Frankie Howerd at Pinewood Studios while working on the studios’ Fire Certificates – which is one of my fonder memories.’
Steve said the school building projects that gave him greatest satisfaction were Prestwood’s Chilternway Federation, the Blueprint Pupil Referral Unit and Booker Park School in Aylesbury, Chiltern Skills Centre in Chesham and the Kiteridge Pupil Referral Unit at High Wycombe. “They were all out-of-the-ordinary projects but provided great facilities for so many young people,” he said..
In 2017 Steve was honoured when he notched up his half-century of service with an invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace; “a brilliant day out with very fond memories of that special occasion”.
Sadly, colleagues in the School Commissioning Team weren’t able to give Steve a well-earned retirement send-off last week, but they are planning one once lockdown restrictions are eased.
Children’s Services Commissioner Paula Campbell-Balcombe, said: “Steve’s dedication and commitment has brought so much benefit to the young people of Buckinghamshire. He’s a dedicated officer, a trusted and respected colleague; and, most importantly, a wonderful friend and member of the School Commissioning Team.”
Anita Cranmer, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “It’s wonderful to see Steve reach this incredible milestone. His commitment and dedication to this local authority is inspiring to everyone associated with the Council, and I wish him well in his retirement.”