Chief Secretary Orville London said farewell yesterday (January 19) to friends, colleagues, Tobago House of Assembly officials and other staff at a luncheon at Café Coco in Crown Point.
And although his final speech as Chief Secretary carried the gravity and thought-provoking style for which he is usually known, it resonated as open and heartfelt as London uttered the many thank yous to those who impacted his life and career during his 16 years in office.
London thanked his children and wife, Brigid, whom he said had been instrumental with her support that allowed him to pursue political life.
“When I decided to get involved in politics, my second daughter could not have had anything to do with that, she was one month old,” London said. “My other daughter was just about three or four years and my wife went along, not because she felt I was doing something sensible, but because she cared enough about me to allow me to do what I wanted to do, whether she agreed with it or not.”
London recalled his “darkest hour” being when he lost his first election in 1996 by four votes. He said his wife’s support and former THA assemblyman William McKenzie’s advice helped him adjust.
The Chief Secretary said he learned key lessons along the way, firstly from his mother, who taught him “you don’t have to be overly aggressive to be effective”. London also paid tribute to Neil Wilson and Stanford Callender for their roles in his career. He also credited McKenzie for his years of sound support.
“I remember in the early years when Mr [McKenzie] and I were in the Assembly and the two of us were there, sometimes two o’clock in the morning and we taking pressure. And I say ‘Mr. Mac how you does do this thing?’ And he said: ‘Orville, my motto is “do the best you could and leave the rest to the Lord”’. And that has been my motto from there, and Mr. Mac, thank you for that, that has kept me strong throughout the years.”
Another pivotal point of his career, London said, was when he entered the Office of the Chief Secretary and was told by his predecessor that he wouldn’t last six months.
“And based on the evidence, he was right,” London said. “Because I was a totally new feller, totally ignorant. And I would not have made it had it not been for people like (former chief administrator) Allan Richards.”
He added that the contributions of the staff at the Assembly also “smoothed me out” into the role of Chief Secretary.
London also praised the various THA Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries who have contributed to the development of Tobago over the 16 years he has been at the helm.
“Yes, it is 16 years,” he said. “It’s four four-year terms, and therefore every team that I work with has got to take credit that they did the work so well that the people of Tobago have been willing, and able, to renew the contract, and I want to say thanks.”
At the event, Deputy Chief Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine paid tribute to London, as did Chief Administrator Raye Sandy and Wilson.