Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Next Chapter

If you follow this blog, you know that I don't write about work a lot. For the most part, I have chosen  to keep work separate from my writing pursuits. The events of the last week however call for a post dedicated to work for a bit, so please indulge me.

I work in a small division housed inside a large Parks and Land Use department. The Land Information Systems Division is four people in size. We are small but mighty mappers.

Well, last week, my boss and friend of 21 years retired. This guy hired me literally 6 months after he started at the County. He and I worked together - but separate - at SEWRPC before that and barely knew each other. Based on what he'd heard from others, when I applied at the County, it was my job to lose. I interviewed, he hired me and well, the rest is history.

There are too many funny stories to recount of our days together at the County. One of the more memorable ones though was when we were gathering a bunch of software together to send back to the vendor. We were essentially trading it in for an upgrade to the brand new product. For some reason, the vendor wanted the old stuff back.

So in the middle of inventorying the stack of boxes of old software I alluded to how absurd it was that we were sending outdated boxes of software back to Huntsville, AL. Don chided in that if I think that's absurd, think about the lackey on the receiving end who's going to have to put it back on the shelf!
ESRI GIS Award Presentation - 2004

For some reason the two of us cracked up laughing so hard we both had tears in our eyes. It was one of the funniest moments in those 21 years together.

Another funny story that Don loved to tell was about my first day on the job. He showed me my cubicle and my computer and phone. When I moved the mouse I saw that the screen had an error that read "Fatal Exception". When I said, "What's with this?"

Don said, "That right there would be your first job." Then he ambled away laughing his rolling laugh that was his trademark.

Turns out the machine booted up fine, but it was one of those "What have I gotten myself into?" moments for a second or two.

I guess it's become a little more rare to work with someone for 21 years, but I was privileged to work with Don. He had expectations for where he wanted the division to go, but he also let us prioritize what we thought we needed to work on from project to project. I always respected his ability to grant us autonomy. We're all adults here, no need to micro manage.

Over the years we suffered through the death of his mother and father as well as my brother and stepfather. We saw our kids through grade school, high school and college, and accomplished so much for the advancement of the County's Land Information System. Twenty one years breeds a lot of shared stories. He was a good leader and a good friend.

So, this past Monday, when he didn't walk into the office, it was a little weird. We've all agreed that we will make our own way and continue in the legacy of excellence he left us, but it's still going to take a while before it feels normal again.

I wish him well in his retirement. With 21 years at the county and 17 at SEWRPC, he has certainly earned it. I only hope I can exit with the same level of dignity and sense of accomplishment that he has.

Happy retirement, Don!

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