At 3:55pm on Tuesday of last week Neil Hayward looked at his watch and a tear came to his eye. For the past 40 years and 21 days Neil would check his watch around that time and know he only had a few minutes to go before he knocked off for the day. He’d say his farewells and catch up with his workmates the following work day. Not anymore. Neil, who was the longest-serving employee of the Clarence Valley Council, retired just before Easter and is now spending his time doing exactly as he pleases. At a brief farewell function at the council’s Bruce Street works depot in Grafton on Wednesday, Neil said he was happy to be taking on another challenge. “The tear only lasted until I got to the bar,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends and had a lot of good work experiences. It’s been great.” His managers all spoke highly of him. Works and civil director, Troy Anderson, said he always acted in the best interests of council, ratepayers and his work colleagues. “He works with everyone,” he said. General manager, Scott Greensill, said having long-serving staff members like Neil gave strength and stability to the organisation.