On the Way to Retirement

By Bob Miller

I’m headed to the office tomorrow for a going-away luncheon for another staff member, but it’s different this time. I haven’t been there for weeks. My office has been taken over by someone else, I’m turning in my computer and I’m saying goodbye once again. It’s no surprise that I’ve dragged out the process a good seven months – some would say ad nauseum — since the first of my four retirement gatherings. But part of the job of consulting is getting to know people with whom and for whom you work; doing everything within your capabilities to help them with their problems; being creative, accurate and objective in developing your conclusions; maybe getting a follow-on project; and then what? After 40-some years of doing that, you’re just supposed to walk away?

For me, no, and especially not from Amy Hanson at FAA’s Airports District Office in Des Plaines. We won a large prominent job to re-evaluate the 2005 O’Hare Modernization Program EIS, which I was to manage. I’d worked with Amy on the original EIS and again, briefly, on the Midway RNAV EA. The re-eval would take me past my retirement date but that was only arbitrary. I could adjust. Then the start date was delayed. And then delayed again. And it kept getting delayed for almost a year, though of course, the due date never changed. All of us – our entire team, all the FAA folks — worked endless hours. At age 70, I pulled three all-nighters in five days; and we completed the 2+ year project in 11 months! At the end, I couldn’t have been happier or prouder to have worked with such a fine group of people. Amy and her colleagues at FAA made every bit of the effort worthwhile. We did it for them.

Could I really have walked away from that experience just to retire? From the profession, maybe, and even from the company which I helped found, but not to the people I’ve worked with for so long. Over the years, many have become my friends. What I wanted most when I left HMMH was my contact list, not because I wanted to keep finding work but because I wanted to keep finding friends. Last week, in fact, I made a trip to Breckenridge to ski with folks from our Sacramento office and client-friends from Denver and Centennial Airports. It’s true I’m retiring at last but I am never forgetting the truly fine people I’ve had the privilege of knowing all these years.

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