In the Public Interest

Well, this is it! I am finally writing my last column as executive director of the Public Interest Directorate. In many ways this is more difficult for me because of the decision to write about my retirement–both the process, which I have been negotiating for several months, and the event, which occurs at the end of December.

So the dominant question at this writing is what should be included in one's last column. Would it be helpful to look back over 14-plus years at APA and try to determine which year was the most satisfying or which was the least so? Of course, I still recall my first APA convention as an executive staffer, or at least my preparation for it. A careful reading of the APA convention program allowed me to generate several "must attends," as friends and associates as well as other luminaries were scheduled to present things I really wanted to hear. I was then presented with a "must attend" schedule filled with Council Caucus meetings, Council of Representatives meetings themselves, Board of Directors meetings, division executive meetings, breakfast meetings, luncheon meetings and last, but certainly not least, the Black Women's Dance. In future years, I'd learn to manage these myriad and often conflicting activities, but 1991 in San Francisco was for me the most exhausting and exasperating convention.

Since then, I've personally experienced some great conventions, notably the most recent Honolulu and Washington, D.C., conventions. Honolulu was just a total experience, while Washington was special in that several groups gave awards and said nice things about my executive-director tenure, capped off by the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) hosting a gala reception in my honor (see box at left).

My thanks

Another sine qua non of a retirement column is thanking all the people who helped me to survive over those 14 years. This is always tough because one has to name names and some of my most memorable faux pas over the years have occurred because of naming some and omitting others. (As we know, some psychologists make a big deal about such omissions.) First of all, I have to thank James Jones, who convinced me that APA was a good place to work, and, of course, Ray Fowler who actually hired me. Of course, I have to thank Norman Anderson, who reappointed me, allowing me to enter the retirement process.

After those three, the names are so many that categories work better than individual names: the Public Interest staff who have performedso well over such long periods of time in areas of concern to the association and to the public. The PI staff is unique, I believe, in that-in addition to doing great work-they also are advocates for their areas of responsibility and mesh well with BAPPI, its committees and the numerous task forces and working groups assigned to the directorate. However, I must name one, a safe choice I think-Gwendolyn Keita, who, after serving as PI associate executive director and director of women's programs, has been appointed to become the executive director upon my departure.

Of course, thanks would not be complete without recognizing the contributions of the governance groups at all levels within and across APA, especially members of BAPPI and its committees. They provided much of the substantive and creative input, as well as advocacy that enabled the Board of Directors and Council of Representatives to support PI issues. Having sat through numerous discussions about intra-association difficulties, it is wonderful to see academics, researchers and practitioners working together on public interest matters, using their respective strengths and blending them into effective, persuasive materials.

What's next?

The one thing about an extended retirement process is that it gives everyone an opportunity to ask about your retirement plans. People who are gainfully employed themselves want to see your "to do" list. When I talk about perhaps improving my golf game, traveling and seeing more of the world (my childhood ambition was to be a hobo), catching up on reading, volunteering, etc., these task-oriented people begin suggesting part-time private practice, consulting or teaching. The truth is that everything on their list and on mine is doable; but if I wanted to be fully employed, why leave APA, where I have the best job in the central office?

However, there are a couple of things that require my attention: First, decide whether to stay in the D.C. area or move, and second, my favorite, making preparations to attend the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

It's been wonderful, but all good things must come to an end. APA has been, using Norman's words, "a wonderful place to work." A psychologist could hardly ask for more.