Golden Gate Bridge District Braces for a Wave of Retirements

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The Golden Gate Bridge in 2007.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The workforce at the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is aging. About 42 percent of its administrative staff are eligible to retire in the next five years.

Norma Jellison handles the district's scattered real estate holdings. She's a division of one, and she expects to retire after this year.

Jellison says that when she leaves, "it's important for me to be able to pass on my knowledge to the person who's taking over my position."

Under current district policy, there's not much she can do to train her replacement. The district can bring in a new hire only after an employee has left.

Managing Director and CEO Denis Mulligan says it's time for that to change. He supports altering agency policy to allow some positions to be filled up to six months before an employee retires.

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"It's valuable to have some overlap, so there can be a transfer of institutional knowledge," Mulligan says.

The policy would be applied only in select cases, says Mulligan, "in circumstances where the employee is interested in participating."

Mulligan says that the relevant unions are aware of the potential change.

Jessica Bowker, a spokeswoman for International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, the union representing most of the agency's professional staff, said they have not been contacted about the possible change, and have not yet formed a position.

As of Thursday afternoon, Mulligan's staff could not confirm whether IFPTE had been contacted specifically.

The Golden Gate Bridge District directors take up the issue on Friday. More formal union negotiations could follow if they approve the policy change.

The district is not unique among transportation agencies facing an aging workforce.

Approximately 42 percent of BART employees are eligible to retire today. Spokeswoman Alica Trost said BART sometimes makes hires before a position is vacant "on a case-by-case basis."