On Tuesday, May 19, Lt. Nancy Dalrymple of the Winthrop Police Department (WPD) appeared at the meeting of the Town Council to request that her impending mandatory retirement be extended until 2023.
The current mandate requires police officers and firefighters to retire at age 65, but an extension would allow the lieutenant to retire at age 68.
The longest-serving member of the WPD, Lt. Dalrymple read from a prepared statement in which she illustrated her forty-year career with the department. She said that her expertise was warranted at a time when qualified replacements were down due to new demands imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Chronological age is but a number,” she said. “I am ready, willing and able to serve as a full-time officer until 2023.”
Lt. Dalrymple stated that her request was not unlike the one granted to Winthrop Fire Chief Paul Flanagan. She also cited the fact that judges and town council members were allowed to serve well into their seventies, and that clerk magistrates were allowed to serve for life.
Councilwoman Barbara Flockhart commented that the retirement age was established when life expectancy was lower, and suggested that it “should be changed.” Town Manager Austin Faison replied that retirement age was determined by state and not local governments.
Lt. Dalrymple said she is “not looking to affect a change in legislation” and that the exemption would only apply to her position.
During the public comment period of the meeting, Winthrop Police Sgt. Sarko Gergerian urged the council to deny the lieutenant’s request, saying it was based on “inaccurate and illogical” comparisons.
Sgt. Gergerian said that and that police officers cannot be compared to firefighters or workers in unrelated industries, and that there were in fact plenty of individuals qualified to take over vacated positions.
“There are people ready to move up in rank, individuals who have trained, practiced and studied for years to score well on tests,” he said. “They have goals that they’re trying to accomplish as they work to develop a career.”
Sgt. Gergerian emphasized the toll the exemption would take on the morale of the department.
“If this [extension] is allowed, it will cause an explosion at our department and it will harm individuals,” he said. “If you want to change the law, take it up with the state.”
Sgt. Gergerian suggested that the department already has a program in place allowing officers to continue working details post-retirement, when they are given the status of special police officer. The position is limited to fewer than twenty hours per week with a salary not exceeding $35,000 per year.
“That is the way a lieutenant would do it,” he said, “to not harm the people they are trying to mentor.”
However, Lt. Dalrymple is not seeking this arrangement, preferring to stay on full-time with the department.
Individuals of the baby boomer generation failing to retire on time has caused significant strain on younger generations that are eager to enter the workforce or climb the ranks within their industries.
Council President Phil Boncore shared that he had received three letters from community members opposing the retirement age extension, but he did not read these letters aloud. The Transcript made numerous requests to obtain these letters, but none were furnished by the deadline for this publication.
Council was unprepared to vote on the matter on May 19 due to a clerical error and moved the item to its June 2 meeting.