Thank you, Dame Jennifer Smith
In recent days, I have been reflecting on my years working with Dame Jennifer Smith. Since we often neglect to thank those who impacted our lives, I want to publicly recognise someone who was influential in my professional life.
I began working with the Dame in 2000 as the Assistant Cabinet Secretary for Policy in the Central Policy Unit within the Cabinet Office. Then Premier Jennifer Smith, she was a stickler for detail and her recall of facts was such that she must have had a photographic memory. I challenged her on the facts on several occasions only to be wrong 99 out of 100 times. While I admittedly considered that attention to detail a pain, focusing on the minute details is now a relevant tool in my own kit, and one that I have passed on to many others.
I always considered myself a decent writer — until I met the Dame. Under her perfection-driven eye and admittedly through endless drafts and rewrites required to meet her standards, that skill was honed to an even greater degree. The Central Policy Unit produced groundbreaking work and its prominence within the Cabinet Office and civil service was due the commitment of the Premier, who ensured that anything associated with her had a mark of distinction.
In 2010, although no longer Premier, she hadn’t stopped serving Bermuda and her people. So when she was called upon to again take up the role as Minister of Education, she did so. Even though I was professionally comfortable at another ministry, I found myself with a second opportunity to work with the Dame, as she was now titled, as the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education.
Knowing each other well, from our previous association, we enjoyed challenging each other and those around us to a standard of excellence.
Working with the Dame was never easy; she demanded 100 per cent commitment and adherence to deadlines at all times. However, as hard as we might have worked, she worked even harder and always led by example.
I appreciated most her understanding of and respect for the civil service. She knew her role and the role of those working with her and there was never a time when she allowed others to circumvent the processes which ensured the impartiality of the civil service and the separation between the elected and salaried members of government.
Even though she didn’t say it, you knew you were appreciated by the Dame. She demonstrated this with little gifts whenever she travelled or at special times. I can recall when she found out I was an Arsenal fan, receiving a scarf following her trip to the UK. She did, however, make a habit of thanking my wife. It was not unusual for her to receive a bouquet of flowers and a simple card thanking her for lending me to the Dame.
I don’t see the Dame these days, but I will always reflect on the work ethic, principled stances, straight talking and committed person that she is. For all that I was able to learn and take from my time working with her, I say: thank you to the Dame!
Warren W JONES
Former Assistant Cabinet Secretary
Former Permanent Secretary
Present CEO, Polaris Holding Company Ltd