INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Dean Scharmen won’t be retiring permanently after all. It has been no secret that the long-time public services director was going to retire this summer. He’s been an employee of the city for 35 years and public services director for nearly 20.
Even though he is only 53 years old, his retirement was cast in stone when he enrolled in Florida’s DROP plan five years ago.
The Deferred Retirement Option Plan allows a State or Municipal employee to continue to work for five years but at the same time collect a pension. That pension money goes into a special fund and when the employee actually retires, he or she collects that money and continues to receive a pension. The caveat to the deal is that the employee must retire after five years in the plan.
Scharmen is about to experience the best of both worlds. It turns out an employee can be rehired if he takes six months off, away from work. That is the plan that City Manager Gregg Mims has worked out in order to keep Scharmen on board.
Mims said he focused on getting Scharmen back after an arrangement with another candidate for the job fell through.
“I offered the position to a gentleman who couldn’t take it because of family issues,” he said. “When that happened I had to reevaluate. I had heard nothing but good about Dean so I offered him the opportunity to come back.”
Mims said he had to do his homework because of the rules involved with the DROP program and rehiring retired employees.
“I talked with Dean about ways we could manage to retain him and I got Financial Director Dan Carpenter involved and we verified the rules,” he said. “We cleared the legal and ethical issues and discovered that Dean would have to be off the job for six months. He needs to be off the job completely for that length of time.”
As part of making that happen Mims had to do some reorganization inside city hall. Solid Waste Supervisor Calvin Warren has been promoted to assistant director of public services and will fill in for those six months while Scharmen is away. His job is not temporary. In fact Mims said Warren’s promotion is part of a long-term plan.
“Calvin is a good up and coming young employee,” he said. “He lacks some public services experience. When Dean comes back I want Calvin to work with him. Dean won’t be hanging around forever so now a transition plan is in place.”
For Scharmen returning to his job with the city isn’t all that different from the retirement plan he had worked out for himself anyway.
“I’m too young not to do something,” he said. “I fully intended to look for alternate employment once I had taken a little time off so this works out well for me.”
Scharmen joined the city right out of high school. He has known no other employer other than the city of Indian Rocks Beach.
“I grew up in Indian Rocks Beach,” he said. “I started working for the city in 1979 fresh out of Largo High School. It was neat to grow up here, go to school and get a job in my own backyard.”
It turned into a career.
“A career in Public Works can be challenging and rewarding. It has given me numerous opportunities for advancement,” he said. “My job serves every citizen in this city every single day.”
Serving the citizens everyday means that Scharmen has had his hands on just about everything the city has been involved in.
“Emergency management is something that is always challenging,” he said. “No one likes the storms that impact the area. But there have been many good positive things over the years. There are several examples: the building of the Nature Preserve and Chic-A-Si Park, the Keegan Clair Boat Docks and beach re-nourishment. My entire career has been challenging, but it is fun and I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m serving every citizen every day.”
As for being asked to come back and rejoin the city after his retirement, Scharmen said he was honored.
“I work with a great bunch of people and I believe I’m of some value to the organization as a whole,” he said. “It was pretty humbling.”
Another humbling event Scharmen said was his selection as Public Works Director of the year by the Florida West Coast branch of the American Public Works Association. That award was given him this spring.
As for his six-month down time, Scharmen said he and his wife Jileen have some plans.
“We are going to do some traveling,” he said. “And of course she has a to-do list and I’ll try to scratch a couple of items off that. Otherwise I’m just going to take it easy. I’ve been working nights and weekends and during emergencies so it is time for some down-time.”
Some of that time will no doubt be spent with his adult children: daughter Elissa Ables, who got married recently and lives in Clearwater and his son, Dean Jr. who lives in Largo.
Then, in February 2015, it will be back to work at his job as director of public services. Mims said the city is lucky to have him back.
“Dean has spent his whole professional career working for the city. He knows where everything is, every wire and every pipe,” he said. “The city has a lot invested in Dean. He’s a young man and can serve the city well for many years.”