Council staff member Lewis Bezzina has been recognised with a Public Service Medal for his work in coordinating the recovery response to the devastating Lithgow bushfires.
The medal is part of the Meritorious award category in the national Australia Day awards. The awards in this group are awarded for 'outstanding service' and recipients are entitled to use the appropriate letters after their names.
Lewis has worked for Lithgow City Council for two years as Transport Manager, a role which - as he describes it - can be quite varied.
Lewis manages all of the outdoor civil works including roadworks stormwater drainage bridges, and footpaths, and also all of the workshops, which includes plant machinery, heavy vehicles and passenger vehicles.
The big cleanup
It was early 2020, Lithgow was on fire along with a great swathe of the country and Lewis Bezzina saw that he had an insurmountable task ahead of him.
Lewis was tasked with coordinating the recovery and cleanup for so many that were affected in Lithgow and surrounds.
Lewis was vital to the coordination of Lithgow City Council's recovery program. Managing a $1.3 million budget he oversaw major remediation works, including slope stability, bridge repairs, road pavement reconstruction and stormwater drainage reestablishment.
He also successfully coordinated arborists and Australian Defence Force personnel to quickly remove over 2,000 dangerous trees within the Lithgow local government area.
"It was a roller coaster ride, really, there were a lot of emotions around and a lot of people were extremely grateful for what we did," Lewis said of the early days of the recovery. "On the other hand, it was a bit difficult to meet some people's expectations as to what they thought we were out there to do as well. We were really fortunate to have a really good team and a lot of support from the councillors and Council's executive team."
Lewis was also supported by the Australian Defence Force and just over two dozen Indonesian Army Personnel. Amid the challenges Lewis faced, was that a lot of the work he and his teams carried out in the recovery effort was on private property. Outside of the scope of work that Lithgow Council typically carries out.
"Council work is, let's face it, generally on public land," Lewis said. "So we had to put systems and processes in place to protect Council staff and Council and to protect the property owners with carrying out all the work. The Army assisted us with that sort of stuff as well. But we had to put our own processes in place. And it was very much a team effort to the end."
Lewis said he is 'humbled' by the nomination and award win. However he wanted to recognise that his success would not have come if not for the tireless work of the dozens of staff at Council and those who assisted from outside. Residents, the Australian and Indonesian Armys and support staff.
"I might have coordinated this and put it in place and but it was very much a real team effort," he said.
"I"m obviously extremely honoured to receive the award but when I found out I was nominated it was a very proud moment. It's humbling to have your colleagues nominate you is a very proud moment.
"I'm very proud to be part of Lithgow Council that we were very much on the front foot in this devastating time and they were really supportive of staff carrying out the work and also very supportive of the community."
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