Time is drawing nigh in my regular job of 19 years as executive VP/CFO at ValleyPBS, and retirement is on the immediate horizon. Friday, Feb. 15, is my final day. March Madness 2018 is almost a year in the rearview mirror, when I wrote here about everything I wanted to accomplish while in the role of acting CEO.
My aspirational list was a mile long. I actually did accomplish a few things, of which I’m very proud. The remaining to do’s I’m handing off to the station’s new CEO, Jenny Toste, who’ll tackle the list with tons of fresh energy and smarts, adding her own unique strategic vision. FYI, no one felt compelled to donate the one gallon plants I asked for, the final item on my list, to fill the gaping dirt holes lining the parking lot left by plant thieves. I still shake my head over that one. People.
I have relished the waning days of my career at ValleyPBS. Cheesemas, in which we annually celebrate all things cheesy and my January birthday, is in the history books. It was one final yummy staff potluck, including a mac-n-cheese throwdown I judged a tie. Maybe I got soft on my last Cheesemas. We finished in a cheese-induced-coma flourish with the reading of the children’s book, “Mouseton Abbey,” an endearing takeoff on the blockbuster PBS hit, “Downton Abbey.” How fortunate I’ve been to celebrate with beloved staff members each year at this time.
The remainder of the year, I slipped back into my “Do you have a PO (purchase order) for that?” mode and “Is this in the budget?” and “What’s the net on that project?” litany of inquiries. Hey, it’s my job and I’ve loved it. Of course, any person who takes monthly financial reports still warm from the printer and holds them to her chest like a precious gift ready to be opened must love her job, even if this behavior is a bit odd. And so, we at ValleyPBS have moved happily and successfully through time (except for that pesky Great Recession), budget year after budget year, growing our services to Valley children, viewers and communities in umpteen, mission-driven ways, including our loyal Lawrence Welk crowd who still tune in on Saturday night.
My modest retirement party (controlling costs to my last working minute) is to be the time when I’ll say thank you and goodbye and cry, striving all the while not to be blubbery or melancholy or too self-referential. I will undoubtedly fail. I’ve learned so much from former board leaders, some no longer with us, and some who are still very much alive and thriving, like Armen Bacon, Bill Lyles, Russ Smith, Doug Noll, Gary Dunn, Kurt Madden, Jane Olvera and Jose Plascencia; with great bosses like Colin Dougherty, Paula Castadio, Phil Meyer and now, Jenny Toste. A few people may be miffed I’m leaving too soon; others very fidgety I haven’t left sooner. Myth-making and history re-creation will no doubt occur and you whisper a tiny thankful prayer you won’t be around to hear it. I now know I can’t control everything (shock), though God knows I’ve tried (back of hand to forehead). I’ve made a few missteps along the way, not all things ending perfectly perfect, yet at some point you have to, with all good grace, stop already, knowing you’ve given your very best for a great cause.
Change is good. In fact, stellar. I don’t plan to slow down by any means, just shift gears, spend much more time writing, marketing a book manuscript for publication, and with Denise Haas, my partner and spouse of 23 years. Until I get used to not steering my Equinox down Highway 168 each morning towards the southeast corner of Calaveras and Van Ness, you can likely find me at the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State, reading, writing, researching — a truly insatiable lifelong learner at heart. Look for me next to the cardboard sign scrawled with the words “Free Advice” in black Magic Marker. Stop by and say hi. Ask me anything.
Phyllis Brotherton has been acting CEO at ValleyPBS and executive vice president and chief financial officer since 2000. A published author, she received her master’s degree in creative nonfiction from Fresno State in 2015, at the age of 65. She can be contacted at email@example.com.