Where Will Retirement Take You?
On June 30, 1995, I retired from public education after thirty seven years as a teacher and an administrator. For the last twenty one years of my career, I served as the superintendent of schools in the Township of Ocean School District. My decision to retire was a difficult one because I worked in a great district with a talented staff and a supportive board and community. On the other hand, there were some things that caused me to consider retirement. The Division of Pensions was offering an Early Retirement Incentive Program to eligible employees in districts that chose to participate. This program provided employees with five additional years in the numerator of the formula used to determine pensions. I also had recently undergone bypass surgery which put into question how much longer I would continue in my current position. All things considered, I decided that this was an opportunity that I should not overlook.
As anyone approaching retirement knows, a major consideration is to develop a plan for this new found time. I decided that I would take the summer to consider my options but I didn’t have anything definite to pursue. Fortunately, an opportunity presented itself that September which answered that question for me. The Department of Education, having taken over the Newark School District, was seeking to employ retired school administrators to evaluate the Newark principals and vice principals as required by the legislation authorizing the department to take over failing school districts. I was a member of the team tasked with this responsibility and I spent the next six months visiting schools and observing and evaluating administrators in Newark.
After my Newark experience, I was employed in a number of school districts as an interim while the district sought a permanent superintendent. Around this time, I was offered an opportunity to participate in a new program sponsored by the State, Department of the Treasury, which was named Local Government Budget Review (LGBR). The program employed retired managers from municipalities and school districts to perform operational audits for public entities. A team from the program consisting of members with experience in the various departments of municipal and school district operation, would spent time analyzing the cost and the operation of each department and the team would provide a report reflecting this information with recommendations to improve efficiency. The service was voluntary and the only requirement was that the report be presented at a public meeting. As the director of the program, it was my responsibility to make these public presentations.
When a new governor was elected, this program was dissolved but it did leave me with an interest in local government and the challenges associated with becoming involved. I have lived in the Borough of Avon for over forty years and I served as a member of the Planning/Zoning Board. After my experience with Local Government Budget Review, I learned quite a bit about how municipalities operate and how services are provided. I decided to put that knowledge to use in my own community so I decided to run for office. Avon is a small town and the governing body consists of three commissioners, one of whom serves as Mayor. I was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2003 and served as mayor for the first three terms in office.
During my years with LGBR, one of our primary recommendations for small communities was consolidation, or if that was unacceptable, shared services. The biggest obstacle to consolidation was loss of local control. I soon realized that Avon had the same objection so I looked for opportunities for sharing services. We have entered into some joint purchasing agreements with our neighboring communities, but our community wanted its own police department, public works department and elementary school and indicated a willingness to pay for these services. I learned early on the importance of understanding the priorities of the community and accommodating those priorities when they are reasonable. However, when the County created a centralized dispatching service which would provide a more efficient service at a substantial saving, I approved contracting this service with the County over the objection of many of our residents. As in public education, there are difficult decisions that must be made in government that are not always popular with the constituency being served.
Avon is a beachfront community and for nine months of the year it is quiet and peaceful. Because of the beach, the summer months are quite active with many visitors enjoying the beach. The Pavilion and gift shop on the boardwalk are very popular attractions and thriving operations during the season. When Super Storm Sandy ravaged the Jersey Shore in 2012, our boardwalk, the pavilion and all the structures located on the beachfront were destroyed. In addition, a number of homes were flooded and some families were forced to find shelter. During the storm, our main priority was the safety of our residents, some of whom had to be rescued from their flooded homes. After the storm, we were faced with a major restoration project on the beachfront which involved rebuilding the boardwalk and the pavilion. I became very familiar with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State and Federal construction regulations. Through a concerted effort by the employees of the Borough in conjunction with FEMA, we were able to complete the reconstruction of our beachfront in June, 2014.
In 1995, I wondered about life after retirement and where it would take me. The last twenty-one years have proven to be interesting, challenging and never boring. I have found that my experience as a school administrator and the skills demanded in that profession have helped me in meeting the demands of my position as an elected official. I look forward to continue to put those skills to use in whatever I do.