Retirement is the hard-earned reward for many, a golden light waiting at the end of a long career promising relaxation and more time for hobbies, friends and family.
But retirement is not in Marline McClane’s plan anytime soon, despite celebrating her 85th birthday Saturday.
“So long as I can keep working and they let me keep coming through the door, I’ll keep coming to work,” McClane said. “I like the work. It would be different if I didn’t like the work. Sometimes it seems like I’ve only been here four or five years.”
McClane works as a services specialist for the Gig Harbor Police Department. She started working for the city of Gig Harbor on July 2, 1990 and, at 27 years of employment, is the city employee with the third-longest tenure.
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She has worked for the city one year longer than current police Chief Kelly Busey, who is the fourth police chief she’s worked with in her career.
So long as I can keep working and they let me keep coming through the door, I’ll keep coming to work. I like the work. It would be different if I didn’t like the work. Sometimes it seems like I’ve only been here four or five years.
Marline McClane, Services Specialist for Gig Harbor Police Department
“She’s not talked about retirement. She’s not interested in it,” Busey said. “When we started (at the department) we were handwriting reports. She’s advanced through several and increasingly complex records management systems ... She has a lot of institutional knowledge in her.”
McClane works alongside Debra Yerry to manage the office for the police department, answering phones, interacting with the public, helping with research, maintaining files and reports, and fingerprinting.
“When people ask me, ‘What do you do for the police department?’ I say, ‘Everything.’ But I don’t go out on the street,” McClane explained. “It’s our responsibility to make sure the reports are sufficient and as correct as they possibly can be before they go to the prosecutor.”
McClane’s family moved to Washington during World War II when she was 11. She graduated Orting High School in 1949 and worked in search and rescue for ten years, before beginning work as a temp and then taking her current position with the city of Gig Harbor.
McClane counts her coworkers among her family and is known to many in the department as “mom.” She has five sons, 13 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter, who just turned 3. Two of her great-granddaughters have graduated from her alma mater, Orting High School.
She’s not talked about retirement. She’s not interested in it.
Kelly Busey, Gig Harbor police chief
With a workspace decorated with frogs and Seattle Mariners memorabilia, McClane is a distinctive presence at the Gig Harbor Police Station, maintaining both a drawer full of crafts and stickers for visiting children and another “magic” drawer filled with items she has tucked away “just in case.”
“She has the magic drawer with anything in it. She doesn’t throw away anything,” Busey said. “She’s got a cackle that fills up the whole police department. It sounds like Marge Simpson to me.”
With almost 30 years in her position, McClane said she knows what needs to be kept around. This includes her addition to the women’s locker room: a reclining rocker for lunchtime relaxation. She credits the constantly changing demands of her job with keeping her mentally sharp and her coworkers for making work a fun and welcoming environment.
“I enjoy every part of (this job), from the time I show up in the morning to when I leave at night. I may be tired but I like it,” she said. “We have such a fun group to work with really. They’re a good group of people.”
I keep my mind working all day long that I don’t have time for dementia.
She also notes that the demands of her job and the responsibility of her position gets her up and to work every day, which she said is the closest she can offer to her secret for longevity.
“I don’t think there’s any real secret to it. Just keep yourself healthy and keep your mind working. I keep my mind working all day long that I don’t have time for dementia,” she said, laughing. “For me, it’s work ethics. I feel like I’m responsible now for this desk and for those jobs that I do and to be Debbie’s backup. I think it’s a privilege to be here.”
As a further incentive, she has Busey’s promise of lunch at the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle when she turns 90.
“She’s getting scary close to it. I better start saving up,” Busey added.
Until then, McClane plans to continue showing up to work, alongside her frog collection and with no plans of slowing down.
“I have no plans for retirement,” she said. “You think I could leave Kelly? He’ll probably retire before I do.”