King’s Lynn civic officer to retire after 26 years in West Norfolk

Queen's Town Hall visit one of the best events in long career from London's Mansion House to Norfolk

From the glorious Mansion House of London's Lord Mayor to the historic town hall in King's Lynn, the career of civic officer Penny Harrison has been intrinsically linked with tradition.

After 26 years of organising a succession of civic events and borough mayors in West Norfolk, Mrs Harrison is retiring at the end of this month.

Her last months in office have included one of the highlights of her time at the council, with the Queen visiting the town hall on the 60th anniversary of her accession in February.

'There have been three real highlights since I have been here; the Queen opening Lynnsport, her visit this year and the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war when we had an event in the Tower Gardens.

'It was one of the first things I was involved in and I still think of it has one of the best things I have done,' she said.

The celebrations included a memorial service, the unveiling of a memorial, a RAF flypast and a choir.

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'I have been very lucky and have been involved with most of the major events in the borough over the last quarter of a century,' she said.

Mrs Harrison moved to West Norfolk from London where she had been working at the Lord Mayor's Mansion House and originally lived in Hunstanton with her husband Brian and their two children, Caroline and Louise.

'We didn't want to bring them up in the city, and came first of all to Hunstanton before we moved to Lynn,' she said.

The move also saw her take up a post with the council, although she never envisaged that 26 years later she would still be in the role of civic officer.

'It has changed so much, mostly because of the technology. When I first started here everything was written by hand and it could take a week to reply to each letter. Now it is all done by email and I almost resent having to write a letter,' she said.

'When the Queen visited to open Lynnsport 21 years ago it probably took six months to arrange, but we didn't really start organising the most recent visit until after Christmas,' she said.

Despite the history and tradition behind a borough like King's Lynn and West Norfolk, the role of civic officer has evolved to ensure it's not all about living in the past.

'We do keep the traditions up; children love seeing the mayoral party for example, but you also have to adapt,' said Mrs Harrison.

The role of advising the mayor, organising civic events and co-ordinating diaries all round is a full-time post, but for the past three years she has been job-sharing, having reduced her hours to three days a week.

She is also heavily involved with the Emmerich Twinning Association and the National Association of Civic Officers and retirement will not mean an end of her activities with either organisation.

She has recently been involved in training other civic officers in maintaining events during the current economic climate when, in line with other council departments, funding has been cut.

'I am not really sure what retirement holds – but I'm sure I will still be busy,' said Mrs Harrison.

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