California's oldest state worker, May Lee, celebrates 77 years of service

ByDion Lim Localish logo
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
100-year-old state worker celebrates 77 years of service
May Lee helped change California's constitution so Asian Americans could be allowed to do state work. Now she celebrates 77 years of service at 100 years old.California's oldest state worker, May Lee, recently celebrated a milestone in service, and she doesn't plan to retire anytime soon.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- May Lee started working for the state of California in 1943. "So that's 77 years' state service," she says proudly. Lee, the longest-tenured employee with the state, is also the oldest.

"She's 100 years old and she's still coming. And I just think she's representative of the sacrifice and the commitment of all the essential workers not only for the state of California, but all the essential workers around the state," Secretary of the Government Operations Agency for California Yolanda Richardson states.

"I'm always walking or doing something, standing up...the last 50 years l've been standing up working," May Lee explains.

"She is vital to this department, " Lee's co-worker Carol Weathers shares. "She has taught and mentored a lot of us."

"By being active, you're mentally alert," Lee adds."She's very meticulous in all the reports that she writes," reveals Weathers. Lee actually prefers a number 2 pencil to her computer while working on budgets and financials for buildings around the state capitol. "It's just as easy to do it by hand, and fast, than put it on the computer," Lee shares.

Lee has worked through 10 different governors. "Most people would look at her and think she should be in a rocking chair somewhere on a porch... she's still coming and contributing," says Richardson.

Lee also played a role in helping change Article 19 of the California State Constitution, which banned Asian Americans from working in government. "I sat down and wrote to, at that time, the lieutenant governor," Lee says. "They invited me to the Senate on May 12, 1945." The amendment was eventually changed in 1955.

But for all her hard work, it's Lee's positivity that possibly plays an important part in her longevity. "Be positive. There is good in everybody," Lee reveals. "Go around and make people happy and you'll make yourself happy, too."

At this time, Lee has no plans to retire. And at 100 years old, she has 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," Lee shares.