California's oldest state worker turns 100, celebrates 77 years of service

SAN FRANCISCO -- A California state worker is celebrating not only her 77th year of service but also her 100th birthday.

May Lee is the longest-tenured employee with the state, working as a financial analyst for the Department of General Services.

Before the pandemic, you'd usually find her with a yellow number 2 pencil in hand, standing at her desk, working on budgets and financials for buildings around the state capitol.

"It's just as easy to do it by hand, and fast! Then put it on the computer," she says one day while picking up some assignments in the office before driving home. (Yes, she still drives and is set to renew her license later this year.)

May Lee has worked through a whopping 10 governors and, according to her colleagues, her work ethic is just as strong today as it was back in 1943.

"She's very meticulous in all the reports that she writes. Reports are just a one or two page... typically and it's a 64-page report that she ends up submitting," says Carol Weathers, who has worked alongside May Lee for the past several years.

"She is a joy to work with me she has taught me a lot of new things and she's constantly giving me her knowledge on just history the buildings and everything she's known." smiles Weathers.

These accomplishments have been acknowledged by the state's politicians, including Governor Gavin Newsom and, most recently, Yolanda Richardson, Secretary of the Government Operations Agency for California.

"Most people would look at her and think she should be in a rocking chair somewhere on a porch... she still coming and contributing," says Richardson, who calls May Lee a "state treasure."

In addition to touching the lives of the people immediately around her, she also played a role in helping change the California Constitution for Asian Americans, which once banned the Chinese from working in government.

"I sat down and wrote to the at time lieutenant governor...they invited me to the Senate on May 12, 1945."

Downstairs in her second cubicle (she's the only employee with not one but two workspaces) is more evidence of her accomplishment through the years. An entire wall is filled with awards and certificates recognizing her dedication to public service. There are also mementos of her travels to more than 150 countries around the globe. When asked if she'll continue to travel, she shakes her head.

"The walker doesn't do very well in foreign countries with the nice cobblestones," she says with a twinkle in her eye.

But it is possibly her attitude that explains her longevity in life and in work -- to stay positive despite all the negative, especially in these extraordinary times.

While she has no plans to retire, one thing is for certain: she had no regrets.

"I think I did the best I could in this world, both in work and life and with the family. So I'm satisfied with my life, I'm happy!"
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