Tributes to Sheffield councillor who helped inspire David Blunkett

Dorothy Podlesny and husband Leonard on their 60th wedding anniversary
Dorothy Podlesny and husband Leonard on their 60th wedding anniversary
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A former Sheffield councillor described as David Blunkett’s mentor has died at the age of 81.

Mr Blunkett has led the tributes to Dorothy Podlesny, who served on Sheffield Council between 1970 and 1982 as a Labour councillor in the Southey Green ward.

The former Home Secretary said Dorothy, who lived in Ecclesfield, had been a ‘guiding spirit’ and a ‘special person’ who worked hard for her community in Sheffield.

“I was very sad to learn of the death of Dorothy,” Mr Blunkett said.

“She worked closely with me all those years ago when I was first elected to Sheffield Council at the tender age of 22, and was always a guiding spirit and committed to the wellbeing and life chances of the people we served in what was then the Southey Green ward.

“Dorothy was one of those special people who devoted a very significant part of her life to not only working on behalf of her community, but crucially working with people to empower them to be able to make a difference.

“Her memory will live on in the things she was able to achieve.”

Dorothy’s daughter Helen Downes said: “She represented the same ward as David and acted as his mentor to begin with.

“She was very, very conscientious when it came to her council business. She was a real people person and wanted to help people.”

During her time on the council, she served as chair of the housing committee, often working with council tenants who had fallen behind on their payments to find solutions.

Helen said that after her mother’s time as a councillor came to an end she remained involved with council business, serving on various panels such as those looking at social security benefits appeals.

She was also involved with the rating valuation tribunals, which assessed whether businesses or individuals were being charged too much.

Dorothy also went on to work as a library assistant at both Tinsley and Ecclesfield libraries.

Born in Sheffield in 1933, Dorothy grew up in Shiregreen, marrying husband Leonard in 1951 at St Mary’s Church in Ecclesfield.

The pair had met at a friend’s party when Dorothy was just 16 and courted for two years before getting married.

The couple were married for 63 years. Dorothy leaves Leonard and their two children, three granddaughters and one great-great granddaughter.

Dorothy died on August 13 and the funeral will take place tomorrow, August 26, at Grenoside Crematorium in the North Chapel from 10.15am. A collection will be taken for her favourite charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which she supported throughout her life.