Discovering New Opportunities in Fire Service Retirement
By Chief Jeff Cash, National Volunteer Fire Council North Carolina Director and Secretary/Treasurer
Retirement – what a thought-provoking word! A recent review of my dictionary states that retirement is “the action or fact of leaving one’s job/career and ceasing to work.” In reality, it is so much more. As Lee M. Brower put it, “A thriving new beginning can be and should be a time for amazing engagement, growth, connections, contributions, and amazing possibilities.”
I have personally discovered that the dictionary definition is not accurate. Since my retirement, I have been inundated with work. Let me explain my “List of Honey-Do’s.” It all started with cleaning out our attic, cleaning out closets, and reorganizing some areas at our home. It also covers routine housework. My wife is still employed, so now when she comes home from work, the clothes are washed, dried, and folded. The dishes have been done. The rugs have been vacuumed. My wife’s coffee is ready for the next morning. I think I need a vacation.
Planning on Retirement
Well, to be serious, my retirement consisted of over two years of planning. Whether you are a volunteer or a career firefighter, retiring from the service is a significant step and should involve a plan to help with the transition, both duties you held at the department, and personally to help adjust to a new lifestyle that doesn’t revolve around the station.
I have served as a volunteer and career firefighter, with the last 36 years as fire chief of my wonderful community. It was a blessing and joy to serve. One of my first tasks before retiring was to establish a succession plan for the department. This was eight years ago. I am happy to report that my choice, my assistant chief, was promoted to my job. He will do a fantastic job. I always drilled into him the critical part of being the fire chief. Firefighter health, wellness, and safety were my highest priorities, followed closely by always providing exceptional customer service. I love my community and feel that anyone serving should deliver the highest level of customer service possible!
Volunteering With Your Department
Now, for the huge shocker, I still plan to be engaged with my fire department along with several fire service committees and organizations that I serve on for a few more years. With my local department, the new fire chief has assigned me the role of our department’s newest safety officer. My wife, Cynthia, has also agreed to stay involved as the president of our department’s auxiliary, a position she has held for 15 years. These positions will allow us to still have direct contact with our local department and still contribute to the department and help make our community safe.
You’ve heard the adage, “Once a firefighter, always a firefighter.” For the past 43 years, going to the fire station almost every day has been my life. It is hard for me to imagine not going to the station and for me to completely walk away. The fire department has always been a part of our family legacy. Both of my sons are involved in the fire service. It is in our blood!
Free Time and Hobbies Outside of the Fire Department
I’m also going to use my newfound “free time” to pursue other interests that didn’t get enough attention before my retirement. For my immediate plans, a fishing boat is on my horizon. I love to be on the water. I used to fish a lot when our sons were younger but simply have not had time with my “calling” as fire chief. All you fish better watch out because I’m coming for you! I have a few other hobbies that I plan to engage in on a more frequent basis, including golf, attending NASCAR races, and volunteering at my church. I am confident that people need to stay busy to protect their bodies and mind. Rest is allowed, but only as needed!
Mark Twain stated the following about retired years: “Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile or laugh.”
As with most people, retirement is definitely a change for me. I now have more time to read, which I enjoy doing but have never had quite enough time. I also plan, along with my wife, to do more traveling. We enjoy traveling, not only in our beautiful country but also abroad. And of course, I have more time to spend with my family!
Learning How to Enjoy Your Retirement
I am excited about retirement, but at the same time, I am somewhat apprehensive. As fire chief, my schedule was very demanding, with many night meetings and travel associated with the position. It will take some time for me to adjust to this slower pace and with having fewer demands. But by staying connected to my department and finding different areas of interest to pursue, I see this next phase as one of opportunity. It will also allow me to concentrate on my own health and wellness and make it a priority.
By the way, for the record, my North Carolina license plate on my pickup truck will remain “Chief73.” I will always be a fire chief at heart. It’s just now I am a retired fire chief!
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