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Nearing Retirement, but Not Slowing Down

Photo Credit: June Marie Sobrito / Getty
Nearing Retirement, but Not Slowing Down
By Pete Levine ·

After 23 years working for the city of New York, Paul Spicer isn’t sure he’s ready to retire. The 65-year-old sighs and chuckles: “Maybe I’ll hold on for another year or two.”

If Spicer does stay on, his colleagues and the clients he serves as a job opportunity specialist at Rider Job Center in Bronx, New York, will be grateful. They know that he’s got their backs, offering words of support and encouragement to whoever needs it.

Spicer, a member of Social Service Employees Union Local 371 (DC 37), wears a number of hats like many of his colleagues.

“We’re case workers, social workers, psychiatrists, doctors and accountants,” says Spicer.

When a family runs the risk of eviction or a head of household loses his or her job, it’s Spicer’s job to get them back on track. But that doesn’t just mean finding his clients new jobs.

“It means making sure their kids are still going to school. That their family is getting the medical care that they need. That they’re eating. That there’s no violence in the household, drug abuse or mental health issues,” says Spicer. “It’s a lot.”

What keeps the Staten Island native going?

“I like helping people. I like seeing them get back to self-sufficiency,” says Spicer. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing people reach their potential.”

According to Cheryl Shelton, Spicer’s former colleague and a 32-year veteran of New York’s social services agency, Spicer supports his colleagues just as passionately as he does his clients. That’s why she nominated him for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.

“Whenever anyone gets backed up, Paul jumps in and helps them out. He’ll do that for anyone: client or co-worker. He’s a hard worker, from morning to night,” says Shelton, now retired. “Everyone enjoys working with him.”

Spicer acknowledges a hefty rate of recidivism in his line of work – clients who are unable to turn their lives around for one reason or another. Though the hurdles in seeing a client toward self-sufficiency can be disheartening, he says he tells his co-workers: “Take it one day at a time. Don’t burn yourself out on one simple problem.”

Spicer stresses the importance of empathy. “I tell people not to get too upset over clients who’re hostile because of what they’re going through. If we really sit down together, we can usually find a solution.”

When he does retire, Spicer plans to volunteer his time to help his community and stay in touch with co-workers. Whether he’s in the office or not, he has no plans to stop giving back.

Never Quit Service Award

Do you know public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty?
Nominate them for the AFSCME Never Quit Service Award.

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