With less than a year to go before I retire (August 2013), I’ll be having many “last” experiences. And since I’ll have been in my current job about 20 years by retirement, all these “last” activities will be nostalgic.
One “last” has already have happened without my realizing it at the time. Last year was my final presentation at our annual application workshop. This year, as part of the transition, I trained two other folks to make the presentations I usually make. This way, if questions arose which they could not answer, I’d still be around for guidance.
By the end of the year, I’ll have made my last visits to about six cities. I’ll be saying goodbye to many folks I’ve worked with for years. But the nice thing about my job is that when I travel through the cities in five nearby counties on my way elsewhere, I’ll be able to point to many things I helped bring about.
Top of the list, for personal reasons, is the Creek Entertainment facility in Gretna, which features a poker room. I plan to play there in retirement. Nearby is the Greensboro water tower. A Love’s Travel Center in Cottondale. A regional park in Quincy, complete with amphitheater.
I’m sure the cities I work with are nervous about who will replace me. Even if one of the more senior grant managers wants my region so they won’t have to travel overnight, that person will not have more than nine years in the program. Enough for the day-to-day activities but not enough for the “have I got a deal for you” attitude that I rely on for being….”creative”… with the program rule, which I’ve been the principal architect of during three major revisions over nine years.
My knowledge of the minutiae and rule technicalities resulted in the first project funded from two grants when I learned the project site was partially in a city and partially in a county. So we awarded one grant to the city for work in the city and another grant to the county for work in the county. At the time, it was the largest job creation project in program history – 434 jobs at a “dollar” store distribution center servicing four states.
And a few months ago, the same city received the largest grant in program history (over $3 million) and the first grant to fund two different projects. It appeared the smaller of the two projects was going to have to be sacrificed when the city received a grant for that only and a few months later, before any funds had been spent, a huge project came along. Our statute said they could only receive one grant in each fiscal year.
After “sleeping on it” to find a solution, I realized the statute and rule were silent about funding two projects with one grant. And since no funds had been expended for the small project, there would be no complications if the city returned the grant. So the city did that and we swept that smaller project into a single grant funding both projects.
The big bosses loved that approach because the Governor wanted the big project to happen. If I’m lucky, that will be the very last project I visit. (And in about a year from now, if you’re at Bed, Bath and Beyond and buy some towels or bedsheets, check the label. If it says “Home Source International” you can think of me.)
This year is also the last one for me to work five days a week. Beginning in January, I’ll use accumulated vacation time to work four days a week. In June, I’ll drop to a three-day week. That way, I gradually ease out of the office. I think it’d be strange, for me and the office, if I were working five days weekly and then one week I’m just gone.
But, like the Terminator, it is possible that “I’ll be back.” As a consultant. I think they’re going to need to pick my brain for many months after I leave. I’d be open to a retainer contract and maybe some one day training workshops. Some of the consultants have expressed interest in the latter.
Other consultants want me to advise them on weaknesses in their applications. I could overview an application in an hour and confirm they’ve left nothing on the table or point out how to squeeze out a few more points in a program where the difference between the last funded and the first unfunded project can be less than two points. Since the administration on a grant is worth $48,000 to $60,000 for the consultant if the grant is funded, I don’t think they’d have a problem paying me an introductory, rock bottom fee of $500 for my expertise. (That’s just $25 per year of experience.)
What I think will be really…interesting…is when I leave the building on my last day, knowing I’ll never enter it as an employee again. I don’t think I’ll be wistful. I enjoy my job, but I’m ready to work only if I want to work and on my terms. That’s real freedom!