Public Sector
May 7, 2012

Finish with a flourish

Is retirement on your horizon? Do you plan to finish with a flourish, or are you just putting in time while you count down the months? As a manager, what are you doing to maximize the input from the retirement tsunami?

I spoke with six engaged and passionate public servants nearing (or into) retirement. Their stories inspired me.

Brian Marson
Brian Marson is Senior Advisor, Service Transformation, and Senior Director of Research and Analysis, with the Treasury Board of Canada. He was Comptroller General of British Columbia for many years, and at the federal level has served as Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of State for Economic Development, and Vice President of the Canada School of Public Service. Brian believes that more public sector executives should teach, write and undertake applied research in the areas of public management and public policy, especially where they have developed significant experience and in-depth expertise. In the second half of Brian’s career, he has taught in MPA programs and co-authored several books with academic colleagues. In recent years Brian has tried to repay those who mentored him when he first arrived in the Public Service by developing the next generation; mentoring an extensive network of young professionals. “I hope that they will benefit from what I have learned along the way from the exemplary academics and public managers I have been privileged to work with such as Gordon Osbaldeston, Arthur Kroeger, Art Daniels, Professor Ken Kernaghan, and Dr. Ralph Heintzman.”

Paul Crookall
Dr. Paul Crookall had 28 years in operations, including as a hospital CEO and prison manager, and was approaching retirement when the deputy minister asked him to join the deputy’s office as senior advisor. “It was a dramatic change from working in walled maximum security facilities, to researching good public service,” Paul reports. “The biggest problem is the gap between policy and performance, and I was there as a ‘do-er’ learning from the policy folks, and vice versa.” Paul “retired” after 30 years, and took up writing on good public management. He is now editor-in-chief of this magazine, still making a contribution, still enjoying life. “Corrections is a tough, stressful job. I don’t see being a manager in that environment at this point in my life. If I were still there, I might well be burned out. But the magazine allows me to talk with the best managers in public service and the great thinkers of our time. It’s not so much sharing my now outdated experience, as it is understanding and then sharing with our readers what helps good managers become better managers.”

Jim Crone
Jim Crone recently retired from the British Columbia Public Service where he oversaw the full range of management services for several ministries and served as an ADM for the BC Public Service over his 31-year career. Jim had his plan in place to retire well over a year before his final day on the job. Part of his plan included two key points: that he would have a successor in place to take over his role as ADM of Management Services for the Ministries of Attorney General, and Public Safety and Solicitor General; and to step out of the ADM role into a special project, at least six months before his retirement date. Jim stepped out of his ADM role seven months before retirement, taking on a project for the BC Public Service Agency. The project was to help the Agency develop strategies to encourage mature employees to continue working longer in the BC Public Service, and to encourage pensioners to look to the Public Service as an employer of choice. Upon retirement, Jim took eight months off from work and travelled which included a first time trip to Europe. Jim has now started a part time role with the BC Public Service where he is working with a team that is looking at strategies to help address the challenges of stress in the workplace. He continues to be a mentor to several public servants.

Robert “Bob” Mercer
Robert “Bob” Mercer has had a 25-year career in the Public Service with the last 11 being with Veterans Affairs Canada.  During his time at VAC, Bob has contributed significantly in many areas including leadership of the Human Resources Division, the Commemoration Review, the Public Programs and Communications Branch, Overseas Events, and Public Service Renewal. In his last few years with Veterans Affairs, Bob was ADM on one of the largest overseas events ever sponsored by the Government of Canada: commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Dedication of the Restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial.  Bob was tasked with another challenge in his final year before retirement; he developed an approach and strategy to Public Service Renewal that spoke to the many unique challenges and opportunities facing Veterans Affairs. 

Louis Vigneault
Louis retired from the Public Service in January 2009 from his substantive position of the last seven years as Regional Director General for the Public Service Commission (PSC), Central and Southern Ontario Region. In addition to his role with the PSC, Louis also served as Chair and co-Chair of the Ontario Federal Council, as well as Toronto campaign chair for the United Way and Regional Champion for both Official Languages and Visible Minorities. The last two years have been busier than ever for Louis and his colleagues with the Staffing and Assessment Services Branch of the PSC and Louis is retiring on a very high note. Louis speaks with great pride when asked about his career as a public servant, and particularly his last years with the Public Service Commission: “My years with the PSC have been the most rewarding of my career. I got a chance to work with some amazing people and am very proud of the work the PSC does. The PSC is a critical institution in ensuring we have one of the very best public services in the world.”

Vic Pakalnis
Vic feels quite fortunate in his departure from the Ontario Public Service. He spent over 30 years in the Ministry of Labour and was part of several associated volunteer organizations. His last six months before retiring were as Director, Special Projects. The projects involved federal/provincial negotiations, mining safety and quality: all passions of his. He describes it as a smooth transition – a victory lap visiting with various offices, giving presentations, mentoring successors and reflecting on what it all meant to him. “Some departures are sudden, little flourish, no retirement party. Well, I was determined to do it right – much like a wake is not for the person in the box; but for the people left behind.  A retirement party – or parties in this case – one at the center of the universe, Toronto and the other in Ottawa where I had served as Regional Director for 18years. Amazing what you find out at these occasions – what matters most to the organization and what matters most to people: believing in them, giving some a chance, and a smile. I received priceless gifts – a memory book with pictures, letters and messages. Plaques and framed pictures and above all – a song that I had never heard before but that should be performed at all such occasions: ‘Good Bye My Friend’ by Susan Krauter arranged and sung by Ginny McMullen, recorded by Andrew Huggett. Public service is art after all.”

These six inspirational people demonstrate how rewarding it is to finish your career with a flourish. When was the first time you considered the way in which you would like to be remembered when you leave your work? Leaving a part of yourself behind in the memories of others is a big part of leaving a legacy. Research shows that without a sense of working to create a legacy, many lose meaning in their career. After a long, fulfilling career consis

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The Government of Canada was the nation’s largest employer with 274,370...