The Rewards of Giving and Receiving Great Public Service

They’re not just financial.

Each year for the past 37 years, the first week of May has brought the celebration of Public Service Recognition Week, honoring those who serve our nation as federal, state, county, local and tribal government employees.

In his proclamation of this year’s PSRW, President Biden said, “This week, we recognize the indispensable contributions of our nation’s public servants. We honor all our public workers who perform critical roles across our country and around the globe. I have the greatest honor of serving alongside these workers every day, and I am humbled by their commitment to building a better America.” 

The Office of Personnel Management tweeted, “This week, we recognize the indispensable contributions of our nation’s public servants. They reflect the full diversity of this country and deliver the promise of a government by and for the people.” OPM recognized another group, too, tweeting, “Thank you, federal retirees! We are building the future of our nation on your proud legacy.”

If you’re a federal employee or annuitant, I hope you’ve felt honored and appreciated by those you’ve served during your federal career. I’ve had a unique view of federal employees who are preparing for retirement from public service after completing careers of dedicated employment in many different agencies and with countless different job descriptions. What I’ve noticed is the sense of pride most of them have when looking back over their careers. Although many workers are ready to move on to a new chapter of their lives, they almost never regret the choice that they made to enter a career of serving the American public.

Although many federal workers have a record at the completion of their careers showing steady promotions to higher grade levels and increasing responsibility, those records don’t always show the sense of accomplishment felt at each advancement. I love seeing an entry on the duty record of someone who started as a GS 2 clerk or trainee and after decades of hard work, rose through the ranks to become a senior level employee.

Federal workers have the opportunity to build on their years of experience to become mentors to younger workers and examples to the public. They also have opportunities for advancement and the option of doing many different types of work that require hundreds of different skill sets, educational prerequisites and levels of experience. 

Federal employees can be recognized for exemplary performance by receiving time off awards, quality step increases and cash bonuses. But a pat on the back by a fellow employee or a word of praise from a supervisor or a member of the public can also go a long way towards making that employee feel appreciated.

At the end of their careers, federal employees who have prepared well and learned how diligent savings and retirement and insurance benefits go together to produce a comfortable life after government. Retirement from federal service is not only a reward, but a well-deserved benefit. 

Thank you to all of the federal workers and employee annuitants I’ve had the pleasure to work with and who have crossed my path either in my everyday life or in the work that I’ve done to help them to understand and obtain their retirement benefits. I’ve admired your dedication to your goals and the many accomplishments you’ve achieved.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of professional, patient and caring assistance from employees of OPM, the Social Security Administration, and the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.  In addition, the retirement specialists and payroll office workers at federal agencies are the unsung heroes of the retirement process. They’ve had a lot of challenges in recent years due to staffing shortages, complicated and changing rules, the effects of the pandemic and the increasing number of employees eligible for retirement.

If you are a federal employee or retiree, I hope you appreciate their work, too, especially this week.