Help Wanted: Feds Seek Retired Boomers

By HALLIE C. FALQUET, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON - The federal government is targeting millions of retiring baby boomers to replace the estimated one-half of their colleagues eligible to retire from federal service in the next few years, according to the Partnership for Public Service, an advocacy organization for federal careers.

Maryland retirees, in particular, are prime candidates for the second career push because of their proximity to the many federal agencies with homes in both Washington and Maryland.

"The government is resource-challenged right now," explained John Emens, a federally employed, second-career, baby boomer who spent 22 years living and working in Maryland. "Huge amounts of money are going to homeland security and the Iraq war. If I'm interviewing someone from Laurel and someone from Louisiana, and I can't offer a relocation package, the person from Laurel has the advantage."

More than 112,000 federal employees work in Maryland for 41 different federal agencies, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. This makes up 6 percent of the total federal workforce. The Department of Health and Human Resources tops the list for the most federal workers employed in the state.

The Partnership for Public Service held a news conference Tuesday morning announcing its campaign to educate retirees about the opportunities available at the federal level.

"We're here to prove that Rocky Balboa is not the only 60-year-old looking for a new challenge," said conference mediator and advocacy group President Max Stier, referring to the aging boxer played by Sylvester Stallone in the current hit movie "Rocky Balboa." "From 2001 to today there has been a 25 percent increase in the over-55 age group," he said, "pushing the number of retirees into the millions over the next few years."

A recent AARP poll shows eight of 10 respondents do not want a traditional retirement because of financial needs or a strong interest in public service, said Nancy LeaMond, panel member and group executive officer of the office of social impact at the AARP.

"They (baby boomers) want to work in places where they can make a difference," Stier said.

Conference speaker Ann Vande Vanter of the IRS, like many other baby boomers, cited President Kennedy's call to public service as her reason for leaving a lucrative position in the private sector for the federal government. "When I meet my Maker, I want to be able to say I did more than put millions in the pockets of executives and shareholders," she said, "I want to use my talent for the greater good."

The campaign came about in part because of the non-strategic, downsizing of the federal workforce in the '90s. Consequently, the resources to fill those positions do not exist today, Stier said. However, "all problems have a silver lining," he continued, "silver being the appropriate term here."

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