The Conservative, who led the council from 2007-2011, received a standing ovation as he was awarded the top honour of Honorary Freeman in a full council chamber at Preston’s Town Hall.
Ken, who served on Preston Council for 36 years, described the ceremony as “exciting and humbling,” but said his greatest achievement in his life was marrying his wife, Sue.
Leader of Preston Council Coun Peter Rankin praised Ken’s achievement in building the Ribble Link, and his contribution to the city.
He said: “People outside the political arena sometimes think, because we are on different parties, we are constantly having a go at each other.
“But, seriously, we are all here to make Preston a better place.
“It’s just we sometimes differ on how we do that.”
He said Ken would be sorely missed on the council, “basically because he’s a nice guy and doesn’t take it all too seriously.”
He added: “Ken, we wish you and Susan well as you sail off into the sunset on your narrow boat.”
Conservative group leader Coun Eric Fazackerley spoke of Ken’s involvement with the Local Government Association, and his role as a JP, and also his “commitment to this city, his pride in Preston and his longing for its success”.
He said: “He touched the lives of many, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Liberal Democrats group leader Coun Pauline Brown added: “You will be missed for your down-to-earth wisdom and I for one think this council has lost one of its favourite characters.”
Addressing the packed chamber, Ken spoke of his gratitude, his family and his devotion to Preston’s rural areas. He said: “As all three members of council have alluded to, I think the best achievement I’ve made in my life was actually marrying Sue.
“There’s been many ups and downs, which you would expect from a good team, but we’ve been really proud of our team productions.”
“Many times I’ve heard jibes that the authority is run by officers, but in my view, that’s not a bad thing because we have a very good team and, provided the elected members give strong leadership to officers, they can make informed decisions which will the city to punch above his weight.”
He added: “I would once again like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the hard work which has made this morning possible.”
Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines will also be given the Freedom of the City next year.