12/20/18, U.S. District Court, San Francisco. Speech given at official retirement ceremony in the jury assembly room, 19th floor.
So I guess I can’t change my mind about leaving now…
I read a funny quote about retirement: “The trouble with retirement is that you never get to look forward to a day off”.
OK, here’s another one: “Retirement is like a long vacation in
Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it to the
fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money”.
person retires and time is no longer a matter of urgent importance, that is the time when your colleagues
generally present you with a watch”.
finally, “The best time to start
thinking about your retirement is before your boss starts thinking about your
Now it may
seem that I’m retiring a little early.
But I think of IT years as kind of like dog years; they’re worth more and they add up faster due
to the stress and aggravation. So in
that sense, it feels more like I’ve been
here 40 years. I often wonder why I’m feeling so tired these
days, and then I start to reminisce and think
back on just some of the things I’ve worked on here at the court over the
When I arrived, a huge asbestos abatement was underway, (1992 – 1994). The entire building was being gutted floor by floor and rebuilt and we were moving all staff and computers to temporary locations as each floor was done one by one. And then moving them all back again as each floor was completed.
In 1994 we opened the new Oakland Courthouse and moved 4 judges over, along with clerk’s office staff and a new server room and tech room.
At that time
we were covering IT in San Jose – there was no full time IT staff there until
the entire court, between ’93 and ’94. There had been no network prior to that, just
Email, internet access, and telework.
Can you imagine? No internet?
Introduced computer controlled sound systems in all courtrooms, and FTR, our digital audio recording software and hardware.
Introduced smartphones and iPads to all judges and managers.
was the 16th floor remodel in 2009,
where the entire east side was gutted and remodeled, with staff being
housed in swing space for months. I
remember our front intake counter operating out of a courtroom during that
times we moved computers when entire floors got re-carpeted, were painted, got new furniture, or a judge retired, setting off a domino
effect of other judges moving. Moves
are such a common and consistent task that we used to have job applicants lift
a 40 pound printer off the ground during interviews, just to see their lifting
technique and strength. We don’t do
that anymore – probably a liability
the upgrades from DOS 3.3 to DOS 5.1, then
to Windows 3.1, then to Windows
95, then to Windows XP, then to Windows 7, and now we’ve been working on the early
stages of Windows 10. And all of those
upgrades involved changing out the PC hardware too, not just the operating
recent times we set up a new courthouse in McKinleyville, with state of the art
courtroom technology and where I’ve visited 6 times so far. We also upgraded our phone system to VOIP (voice
over internet) in all courthouses, another very large project that involved
both procurement and IT. Especially Deb
Centanni. And Mike Wong and Dew Chung
who handled all the network wiring issues.
So think about the basic computer operation that was here when I started: No network, very few color monitors even, no email, no internet, no telework, no courtroom technology, no iPads, no cell phones or smartphones, no videoconferencing, no Oakland Courthouse, no Eureka/McKinleyville Courthouse, a much smaller IT staff, many fewer PCs and programs. Everything that came after that, everything we have now, I’ve been a part of building and delivering. And I had help, lots of help from an incredible IT staff. But when I think back on the monumental amount of work and projects that I’ve worked on over these decades, it actually makes good sense that I’m exhausted, and the main thing I’m looking forward to in retirement is just having some time to rest and savor this incredible experience.
are asking what I’m going to do when I retire.
Number one, of course, rest. I’m really looking forward to staying up
late reading or watching movies with Edie, and then sleeping late. And I’m going to be working on a HUGE
backlog of home projects that I haven’t had time to do. And gardening. And supposedly I’m a bass player but somehow
over the years the time to practice and be in a band has been eclipsed. There just hasn’t been enough time. I’ll
be spending more time with my wife and my cats,
and that is really the best part.
Seeing family and friends more too.
And there’ll be more time for taking walks along the beach in Alameda,
which we love, and hiking in some of the
local bay area parks. Spending more
time in our favorites Yosemite and Kings Canyon, then ranging out a little
further in our van to places like Joshua Tree or Death Valley, then eventually beyond to the desert
southwest. I don’t think there’ll be a
problem figuring out what to do. As
both my father and grandfather said after they retired “ I don’t know how I
ever had time to work. I’m busy every
People are also asking me how I can afford to retire now, and aren’t I a little young to be retiring. Now I’m not exactly “young”, but seeing as how I’m 58 and that the average retirement age for federal employees is about 62, and probably closer to 65 or higher for the average American, yeah, I am retiring a little early. I see it as a gift to myself, and my loved ones. It’s an expensive gift, for sure. Because I’m a bit under age for the full, un-reduced retirement, I’m taking a permanent 17.5% reduction off of an already very modest FERS retirement benefit. But that small pension, plus being able to stay on federal health benefits, plus what we’ve saved in retirement accounts, and the fact that Edie will still be working for some time, and me probably looking into part-time work, should, if my calculations are correct and our financial advisor knows what he’s talking about, work for us. I’m taking a bit of a chance giving up a good income sooner than I have to, but the way I see it, I’d be taking more of a chance not going for what I really want, and taking better care of myself.
As you probably know, Dew Chung has been selected to fill my job after I leave, after a long and competitive recruitment process. He’s earned it, and I’m proud of him, as I have supervised him for over 10 years now and seen him grow and develop. But in a way I have mixed feelings about Dew taking over my job. Let me explain. On the one hand, I’m so pleased that he has earned the right to be promoted and grow in his career. On the other hand, I know how hard my job is, and I like Dew, so part of me is thinking “God help him!”. But you know, there comes a time in life and in your career when you’re ready to step up, to step up to another level of challenge. You can stay where you are and where you’re comfortable, or you can decide to step up and accept new challenges. And that’s what Dew has done and I wish him all the best. It won’t be easy, but few worthwhile things in life are.
I want to thank the IT team and say what an incredible experience it’s been working with such a dedicated group, and how much I’m going to miss being part of this tight group, especially our Friday lunches out. I’ve never worked with a group that had so much talent, and to a one were such good people. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and the spirit of help and cooperation under daily pressure and high stress situations is really admirable. We all have eachother’s backs, and everyone works miracles behind the scenes every day to keep this whole operation going – most of which is never seen by the rest of the court staff, but which takes countless hours behind the scenes to accomplish. Many of us have worked together for decades, and it’s those long-term relationships that create a culture of caring and responsibility that we have been so, so fortunate to have been able to cultivate here. I hope that continues long into the future with the new people we are bringing on board, and those we are promoting.
And I want to say to all of you who I’ve worked with for so many years, I really am going to miss being part of this family. There are so many nice people here, people who are smart, funny, and who have many talents. But not everyone is so nice. Some are a little more salty than sweet, but we love them for that too and that’s all part of the mix. And of course I want to recognize my wife Edie, who’s been with me every step of the way. We’ve been married over 27 years, and it’s coming home to her every night that’s made all of this effort worthwhile. And there’s only one person left here who was instrumental in hiring me and bringing me on board way back in 1991, and that is our HR Director Bev Keh. She’s been there for me from the beginning, guiding me through all the milestones of my career, and finally through the retirement process. Thanks so much to you Bev, and your amazing staff.
finally, if I may, a word of advice. I’d never be retiring now if I hadn’t
started thinking about and planning for it 27 years ago when I first started
work here. I went to every retirement
and financial literacy class or seminar offered in this building that I
could. It’s your future and your
freedom, so the more you learn about it the better off you will be. And let me stress three letters: T S P
– the Thrift Savings Plan. For those of
you in FERS, and that’s most of
you, the TSP will be your most important
resource in funding your freedom one day.
You absolutely must contribute at least 5% of your income, to gain the 5% matching funds the government
will throw in. That’s free money
that you just can’t refuse. And then aim to increase your contributions
every year, working your way up to 15%
of your income, and ideally,
hitting the IRS maximum contribution limit of $19,000 year for those
under 50, or $25,000. a year if you are
over 50. There’s an old saying “Pay
yourself first” and if you save into your TSP starting as early in your career
as possible, and increasing your contributions as much as possible, you will thank yourself a thousand
times over when you’re approaching your freedom date. Contact HR for more info, or go to TSP.GOV.
And so at the end of my career here at the U.S. District Court, I’m left with an enormous feeling of gratitude. This job has not been easy at all, in fact it’s been the hardest job I’ve ever had. And there have been times along the way when I just wanted to quit. But through thick and thin, we all stick with it every day, we do our jobs, we work with some great people, we never miss a paycheck (well, usually we don’t), we appreciate those commuter checks and the holiday party every year, and most importantly we support the judges who are the whole reason why we are here. They do their best for the hundreds or thousands of citizens who come to our court every year seeking justice, and for that I am honored to have played a role for the past almost 3 decades. Serving here is not just “a job”. We are part of an organization that was established in 1850 in San Francisco during the wild gold rush days, a pillar of the Constitution, and the bedrock of our democracy. It is more important and necessary than ever, and you are all – each and every one of you – playing a role in that and you should be proud. Thank you all so much for your friendship and understanding and kind words over the years.