Reflections On Retirement

Blog#187- 1/16/24

By Richard Davis

I have had over eight years to learn something about the stage of life that is called retirement. Sadly, in this country retirement is almost totally a financial issue and not everyone has the means to be able to set a date when they will no longer work for a living. The numbers have to work and living solely on Social Security is pretty close to impossible in today’s economy.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, half of all Americans would have to lower their standard of living in order to retire. That means that those 50% of Americans have no retirement savings and they face the prospect of having to have an income from work for the rest of their lives.

Of those of us who are lucky enough to be in the financially secure 50% there are a few groups of people that can be identified. There are those who count the days when they no longer have to work for someone else or who simply want to change their lifestyle.

There is also a group of people who love the work they do. Many of these people feel that their work is their life and when you ask them they tell you that that don’t look at what they do as work but as a calling. They are reluctant to retire because they are content with their lives and they feel that this is the best way they can make a difference in the world.

And then there are those people who fear retiring because they don’t know what they would do with their time once they retire. I have talked to many people who fall into this category and I try to show them how their life might be productive during retirement, but the fear of the unknown keeps them going to work every day.

When I retired I left a job that I considered the best job I ever had. Part of me wanted to stay because I knew I was making a difference in people’s lives. I also knew that the rest of my life had to be focused on helping other people because I was one of the lucky ones who could afford to retire.

During my first year of retirement I often wondered how I had time to go to work because there were so many things I wanted to do. I had already started two non-profit organizations and I knew that I could continue with one of them for as long as I wanted.

I kept my nursing license and was able to qualify for renewal based on doing some volunteer work and some paid work. Work can be part of retirement and that is why I tell people I am “mostly retired”.

Over the past eight years I have been careful not to make any long-term commitments, guarding my free time carefully. Some people who are retired need to schedule almost every aspect of their lives. I think it gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility and may possibly hint at a fear of not knowing what to do in retirement.

My approach has been the opposite. I try to schedule as little as possible and wake up most mornings with no agenda and no need to set the alarm clock. That kind of life suits me well. But lately I have felt that something may be missing or that I may have left something important out of my retirement plan.

Should a 74 year old step aside and let the younger generations run the world or should an older person still try to offer the experience and wisdom they have gained over the years. I considered running for the state legislature, as I have in the past, but it required a level of commitment I am not willing to make. As I started to look at town politics in Brattleboro it became clear to me that the town selectboard needs some new blood. At first I did not consider that I could be that new blood, but after talking to a group of local politically active people I have decided to move this retired life into new territory. I may regret it.

I will be running for a one year seat on the Brattleboro selectboard. If I win I will try to offer a different point of view and use my 74 years in a way that helps the town. I have no tolerance for “bs” and I am not afraid to ask difficult questions. My patience may be tested beyond its limits, but I will try my best to look at this move as just a new direction for retirement.

Comments | 9

  • Buried the lede : )

    “As I started to look at town politics in Brattleboro it became clear to me that the town selectboard needs some new blood. …

    …I will be running for a one year seat on the Brattleboro selectboard.”

    • Welcome, Richard! (A reply and invitation from a current selectboard member.)

      Hi, Richard, and welcome to the selectboard race. As I imagine you know, I’ve been on the board for almost a year, and I’m proud of a number of things we’ve accomplished together, and a couple of things I’ve done on my own. I think my office hours twice a week, where anyone can come talk with me about pretty much anything, has caught on and is giving people better access to the board and their elected officials.

      I’m curious about the “new blood” idea. It sounds good, but it’s kind of vague, and some details would be interesting to hear. Are there specific things you think the “old blood” did wrong? Are there personality traits you find nonproductive and think should be removed from the board? Perhaps my memory is incomplete, but I don’t recall your input or participation in town affairs, not in the past year, anyway. So what’s up?

      Believe me, I can understand wanting to be on the selectboard. I’ve been enjoying it a lot. But just citing your desire and your decision to run falls short of a persuasive argument, in my opinion. I think the voters deserve more. And if you think the selectboard requires less of a commitment than the Vermont legislature, you might want to reconsider. First of all, it’s all year round, not six months on, six months off, and second, you have three times the number of constituents as a legislator has. So it’s a lot, if you want to do it well. It’s a commitment.

      Since you’ve really just announced, you may still be preparing a more specific message to deliver, and if so, I’ll eagerly follow what you have to say. But there’s only a little more than six weeks until election day, so don’t keep your powder dry for too long. If you’d like, please do come to my office hours at The Works on Main Street, every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30, or Friday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. I’d like to hear what you’re thinking, and I’ll bet we could have some interesting conversation.

      So welcome to the candidate pool, Richard. Jump right in, the water’s fine.
      Franz Reichsman
      Vice chair, Brattleboro selectboard

      • You asked... It's the public!

        I’ll answer the new blood one. This board has been THE WORST in my 20+ years of reporting on select boards in terms of PUBLIC INPUT. Based on my conversations, I am not alone in this view. People have been extremely frustrated.

        Just a few examples:

        We have a Chair that for the first time in memory refused, multiple times, to let a member of the public speak on an issue during public participation. Also tells members of the public their time is up, frequently, and wanted to have a light to signal when the public should shut up. Public comment is always last after decisions have been made. The message is clear – this Chair thinks the public wastes time. Notice how no one comes to meetings anymore. All dropped off after EMS decision.

        The board picked and chose among the public input they wanted to hear to justify the convoluted EMS decision. The decision was made ahead of time and the pubic input was crafted to be ignored (summer meetings).

        Secret, un-accountable “office hours” with no paper trail, audio recordings or other public documentation continue. There are no monthly reports. We have no idea who is whispering in their ear or what is being said. Who attends? What’s the agenda? What are the results of the meeting? Does the board member take any action based on these secretive office hours? We just don’t know.

        New members didn’t fight the EMS transition, as many voters had hoped. ARPA funds were diverted to EMS. Empty downtown businesses, crime, roads in terrible shape, a crappy bike lane on Western Ave that adds danger, taxes up, a dull ARPA list created primarily by staff…

        The board may feel proud of accomplishments, but many in the public feel very much let down in the past year. You can hear it in the few public comments that are allowed, usually late in the evening

        It might be smart for incumbents to run a campaign of apology, not a victory lap, this time around. “Sorry, we will do better” might get a current board member re-elected again. “We did great, you just don’t see it,” is not so good.


        I strongly urge people to grab petitions and run for any open position. Don’t listen to current board members. You don’t need to participate in any specific way in a previous year, and you don’t even need to reply to someone who tells you that you are falling short.

        (The above is what I see going on with the voting public. Next is my personal view: Quite honestly – Franz – in my view you were MUCH better when you were not on the board. You were a welcome voice from the public. I looked forward to your comments, questions and insights and thought you’d bring that to the board. Somethings seemed to have changed since your election, though, and perhaps you don’t see it. (Watch old meeting tapes…) It’s rather odd to me how different, really. If we were pals, I’d advise you to return to the public position you previously had, and hold public office hours for the public side of the meeting and organize the public to speak at meetings. Your year on the inside would make you quite effective out on the public side again. My genuine two cents for you specifically. )

        • Finally, someone has said it!

          Grotke’s no-holds barred critique of the current selectboard is well-taken. What is it about sitting at the Brattleboro Selectboard dais that turns our good neighbors into petty tyrants, mesmerized with their own self-importance?

          The structure of our town government should, in my opinion, facilitate wholesome democracy because the human scale could facilitate direct conversation, dissolving barriers between residents and their representatives. The unfortunate self-important insularity of our selectboard has more often than not been a problem, but the “you-elected-is-to-make-decisions-so-shut-up” delusions of the current board, puts that perennial problem on steroids.

          I encourage Chris Grotke to submit an op-ed opinion piece to both The Reformer, and to the Commons. The managing editor of the Reformer has told me that she is OK with duplicate opinion pieces appearing in both papers, and from what I have seen, that seems to be the policy at The Commons as well.

          Would love to see Grotke’s byline, and to see his insights about Brattleboro’s governing body reach a larger audience.

          • I take offense...

            Oh, I suppose criticism from the public is the expected outcome of holding public office, and I suppose I should let it slide off my back, but the truth is, I think your comments are offensive, both to me personally and to civil discourse. It seems apparent that you find the selectboard insensitive to public opinion, and you are entitled to say so, but you also seem to have fallen into the current pattern of leveling whatever charge pleases you, in this case against people who are putting a lot of effort into figuring out what would be best for the people of Brattleboro.

            Although you don’t say so, it looks to me like you disagree with our decision on EMS and Rescue, Inc., and if so, you are no doubt correct that many people share your point of view. But that does not mean we didn’t listen to all sides in making our decision. I don’t recall your specific contribution to the debate, but in fact I was completely open to that point of view when I joined the board last March.

            Over the ensuing six months, I heard plenty of people say we should go back to Rescue, and it was not until the final week of our deliberations that I decided there was no path to get there. Your accusation that I am a petty tyrant, mesmerized by my own importance is completely at odds with the process we went through. You are simply wrong.

            If you want to know what I think, about EMS or any other issue, come and talk to me. Chris Grotke has already flamed me about my “secret, un-accountable” office hours (fyi, Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 and Fridays from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. at The Works on Main Street), but I think that’s exactly what’s needed — more opportunities for people to communicate, in more formats, with and without cameras and recordings. I would be happy to explain my decisions to you and to whoever else shows up. Or call me. Or send me a postcard. Or meet me at a time and place of your choosing.

            Do I think Chris Grotke (and everyone else) should send their ideas and opinions to the Reformer, or the Commons, or Fox News? Yes, I believe they should, and I believe Chris’s idea of holding official selectboard meetings for the express purpose of hearing from the public is a good one. I will be thinking and talking about it, and I invite you to join the discussion.

            You wrote above that the human scale of our town permits direct conversation. I would ask that you put those words into practice. It might help you realize that I don’t tell people to shut up. I ask people to engage.

            With best wishes for lots of future communication,

      • Reply

        Thanks for your perspective. I will make a more formal announcement. I have been observing town politics for many years but have not provided direct input. Maybe that’s a liability. As far a new blood. It was not intended as a slam at current members, just a statement of my belief that I may look at priorities in a different way than current board members. I am aware of the commitment and at this point in my life I have the ability to make a 100% commitment to the selectboard.

        • More Replying, etc.

          Thank you for your reply, Richard, and inevitably new people on the selectboard bring a different perspective to the discussions and decisions. I’ll be looking forward to your formal announcement and hearing more about your particular perspective on recent events and ongoing issues facing the town.

          If you have any questions about things on the board, I don’t have a very long-term experiential base, but I’d be happy to share what I’ve observed over the past year. (John Potter also has offered to speak with prospective candidates.) As I mentioned above, I think a conversation would be interesting, so please let me know if you’d like to talk.

  • RD Davis: Prospective Selectboard Member

    The question which I suggest Richard Davis think about, is how, as a selectboard member, he and his colleagues on the board could encourage genuine, informed, public engagement.

    • Public engagement

      That is my primary goal. I have never been afraid to ask hard questions and to make sure I get the answers that the public needs to hear.

Leave a Reply