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Paul Elwell by Kevin Dunham

First Published: 29/09/2012 13:48:322 comments

I stumbled across some sad news last weekend. Paul Elwell, my team leader from my time at Cleveland County Council Surveyors and Engineers Department, passed away in March. As a team leader Paul was quite rare. He had a combination of camaraderie and respect that you don't often find. You did your best for Paul. Not because of the fear of retribution for not doing so, but because you didn't want to disappoint him. In the many years since that is something I've not come across all that often.

I've not seen Paul for about thirteen years, but I did exchange a few short messages with Paul at the end of last year after connecting with him through Linkedin Add Linkedin to your favourites. When I made the connection request I wondered if he'd even remember me. He did and made reference to a picture of Linda Lusardi I had on my desk back then. Back in the late eighties a picture of a scantily clad young lady wasn't the issue it might be now.

Last weekend I finally got round to publishing a couple of pictures of Paul's highway design team that were taken on the day I left the company. I tried to ping a link to a few of the people on the photographs through Linked and found Paul's account closed. Thinking that odd I did a bit of Googling and came across Paul's death notice in the Northern Echo website. Paul passed away suddenly on 11th March at just 66 years old.

As a manager I would liken Paul to Captain Kirk. I think he was quite technically aware and, on his way to becoming Principle Engineer, had probably fulfilled many of the roles taken by his team. However his skill seemed to be in understanding the capabilities of the team members and using this to direct the work accordingly. Like Captain Kirk, if Paul was beaming down to the planet I reckon he would know exactly the skill set he would need to take with him.

Paul was also a great on for encouraging people to better themselves. If anyone on his team was procrastinating on the way to becoming chartered they would know about it, by virtue of his cajoling. It would probably be easier to do the exams than to avoid his attention. How many mangers to you see these days who pay any great attention to the developing their charges? In these days of ranking and grading I think most managers would see under performing employees as a blessing. After all you always need some one to fill out the dirty end of the bell curve.

The last time I saw Paul Elwell will have been back in 1998 or 9 and an Institute of Civil Engineers conference. I think Paul did a presentation on environmental engineering. The first thing he did on seeing me was to ask if I was chartered yet. Much to his disappointment I wasn't. I didn't want to disappoint him further by telling him I had decided on leaving the civil engineering profession altogether. A certificate from the Engineering Council, although nice, was no longer a particular essential.

I have a couple of abiding memories of my time working with Paul. The first was when I made a bit of a cock up when taking off some drainage quantities. Embarrassed by my mistake I didn't need a telling off and I never got one. Instead Paul's focus was on me understanding where I'd gone wrong in order that I never repeated the mistake, even though I was set to leave the organisation at the time.

The one time I did get a bit of a telling off was when I had let my appearance become a little slovenly. He ordered me to get a hair cut and a shave so I did. That might even have been the haircut that lead to Joan the tea lady calling me Melvis, a nickname that still endures to this day.

Goodbye Mr Elwell it was a pleasure knowing you.

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The TLog of Mel Small the architect and creator of Tenuous Links. My muses, sometimes aimless and mostly irrelevent, cover a variety of subjects, hoping against hope that at least one TLog entry may be of the slightest interest to some poor soul.
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