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Ten, Five and 55


I was passed over for a battalion chief promotion days before an eligible list expired.

Ranked almost at the top, there was just one other promotion made in the two year life of the list.

It was more than a missed opportunity, the promotion was for my staff job. Agreed to fill-in as a section boss during a department reorganization. What was to take a couple of months became a year-and-a-half.

Took the next BC exam a couple of weeks later. Scored lower, out of the promotable range for the next two years.

Angry and frustrated, I asked the retirement board to calculate the earliest possible date. My estimate was twenty months.

Was shocked to learn that I could retire in a few months.  Time as a fire cadet and a ton of accumulated sick leave made the difference. I retired with 25 years and 15 days of uniformed service.

Retiree Remorse?

A colleague who started the same year I did ran the recruitment section.  At every fire/ems conference he explained the benefits added since I retired. They kept accumulating.

A second longevity step in the salary scale, an increase in the multiplier used to calculate annuity, pay raises and a DROP program.

He retired six years later at the same rank I had but with a much more generous payout.

That bast!d :)

While I miss the action and the day-to-day "family" dramas, the only time I regretted retiring was one Tuesday morning.

Smoke was rising from the Pentagon on a terrible and brilliant blue-sky day.


Despite 16 years as a part-time community college instructor I was not prepared for full time academic life.

The first jump into a private university was awful. Floundered as I figured out what was important and what was trivial.  The job I agreed to do was not the tasks that consumed the work week. Within months I was looking for another job.

Went back to the community college. Found comfort with written guidelines, boundaries and expectations that make up state employment. With comfort came a dramatically lower salary, less pay than the rookie firefighter/paramedic taking classes from me.

Not that it was perfect. Needed to petition the Provost to get my State and Local Government graduate degree accepted for promotion to assistant professor.

Had to show that, at that time, there was just one university with a "Fire Science" graduate degree in the United States. Example of a state guideline too closely followed.

Back to the varsity squad

I continued to teach part-time at the university. Learned more about how the place worked. With eyes wide open, I rejoined the university.

The program has a complex organizational structure. An academic boss, who makes the hiring decisions, is from one school. The dean is from another school and controls the budget.

As a program director, I feel like a child of divorce where both parents are successful in distinctly different careers. They have strong views on what the child should do.

Almost like running a fire-based EMS program.


The fifth year annual faculty review requires closer scrutiny.  It is a milestone point in university employment.

I am getting a new "parent" this month, so the senior parent is more critical than in earlier reviews. Addressing long-standing issues, assumptions and the unique organizational structure.


Decisions made years ago by people long gone are now "my" problem.

Frustrated as I try to explain what we do and why we do this.  Or why we cannot do that.

It seems as if the years invested in learning how to work around a complex system are unappreciated and minimized.

Maybe I am too much of a fossil for this organizational warfare. Second retirement?


While it is just a number, it holds power.

As an official fossil I can buy into an "active adult" community.

Within the demographic of new Corvette owners.

The number of pounds I need to lose.

Mike "FossilMedic" Ward
July 9, 2010
updated March 14, 2011

Comments - Add Yours

  • Fire Daily

    Retired? Ha!
    Nice try, my friend!

  • Mike "FossilMedic" Ward


    But there are days when I wonder.


  • Jenniferarndt01

    Wow what a story! It's funny the number 55 means so much and is such a turning point in many peoples lives. I can't find anything wrong with spending the days on the golf course at your active adult community and driving to town in a shiny corvette! Oh the good life!

  • Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    Hi Jennifer, thanks for the note.

    Really not sure I can do the “good life.”
    I stink at golf and need constant challenges.

    Plus, I need the money from my second career to support my lifestyle.