As someone who worked at the Mental Health Institute in one capacity or another for over 30 years, I have attended my share of "retirement coffees," honoring employees who are leaving.
Janet Stilley (left) was one of thirteen MHI employees honored at a Retirement Coffee on Thursday. Her former co-worker Deb Sorensen (right) stopped by to wish her well. Photo by Dan Whitney
But on Thursday, I attended a "retirement en masse," as 13 retiring MHI employees were recognized with an Open House in the MHI Auditorium. The 13 were actually just part of the 37 employees who have retired from their employment at MHI this year.
Three factors figured into this mass exodus at MHI (and at many other state agencies). First, the State of Iowa has been forced to cut the budgets of all state agencies, due to the economic recession; Second, the State offered an excellent "early retirement" package - which could well be just a "one time offer-" to state employees; and third, Cherokee MHI had a large number of employees who were eligible, due to a combination of age and length of service, for that early retirement package. Suffice it to say, all three factors juxtaposed to lead 37 employees to decide that "this is the time" to retire.
Retiring from service -
Abby Burhard retired from state employment Thursday. Abby has worked for the Division of Vocational Rehabiltation Services for several years, and prior to that, was employed at the Cherokee MHI. Photo by Dan Whitney
As I stated earlier, the 37 Cherokee MHI retirees were not the only state employees who chose to leave their positions. In addition to the Retirement Open House in the auditorium Thursday, I also attended a smaller gathering in the Heritage Room at MHI, where a very dear friend and former co-worker, Abby Burkhard, was also observing her last day as a State of Iowa employee. Abby and I have a long history. I hired her to work as a Social worker at the MHI, then several years later, we attended classes at, and shared transportation to and from, the University of Omaha, as we both studied for our Masters of Social Work degrees. And then, we both ended up leaving the MHI on the same day to take new jobs with the same satate agency - Vocational Rehabilitation. I worked out of the Cherokee office and Abby out of the Sheldon office, but both of our offices were under the direction of the Sioux City office, so we continued to have frequent contacts over the seven or eight years I was employed with DVRS. But wait, there's more - When I left my State employment to start my current employment at the Chronicle Times, guess who took over my DVRS job in the Cherokee office? You got it - Abby.
So when I went up to the MHI on Thursday, I said "farewell" to several people with whom I had been co-workers - some of them were supervisors of mine, some I supervised, others worked in other departments, but all were part of the "fabric of my life," as they say.
Not taking retirement for GRANTed -
Jeanette Grant (left) sits with her husband Bob at Thursday's retirement open house at MHI. Jeanette was one of thirteen MHI retirees who were recognized at the coffee. Photo by Dan Whitney
But enough about me. I wish each and every one of them a very happy retirement - you deserve to have a wonderful "after (State employment) life" - just don't forget to write.
Leaving the state -
Mary Ann Hanson (right) was one of thirteen MHI employees who were recognized for leaving the state (employment, that is) on Thursday. Fellow Washta resident Don Parrott (left) was one of many people who dropped by to wish her well. Photo by Dan Whitney