Things I’ll miss, and some I won’t

Kathie Martin, soon-to-be retired communications manager at SCV Water

At the conference in Monterey, the CAPIO Board gave me the great honor of inviting me to address the conference attendees during the President’s lunch, just weeks away from my retirement. Here is a retelling of a few of the nuggets of wisdom and foolishness I shared that day.

I want you to know that this career did not come naturally in the beginning. I was a reluctant communicator at best! I was the kid hiding behind my mom if someone tried to make eye contact, and I would make myself sick with stress over a school presentation. But my years in CAPIO gave me confidence, amazing professional connections and lifelong friends.

There are a few things I’ll miss about CAPIO as I retire. For one, it has been my professional safe space since I joined in 2001. I could ask dumb questions or find out if anyone has done what I’m about to do before I really step in it. It was also a safe space to learn to speak up, even in those awful conference sessions where they force you to be interactive!

My advice: Just take a deep breath and do it. Raise your hand. Join the group chatting at the bar. Sign up for the restaurant round up. You’ll never find a more supportive group than the people who surround you in CAPIO.

Something else I’ll miss is the ability to plug in to the deep well of professional knowledge and development opportunities. When I made the switch from a city to the water industry five years ago, I pulled together a list of other “water geeks” from our roster and turned to them more than once for guidance. Whether you are in-person at events or on the Member Forum on the website, both seek and share knowledge.

My lesson learned: CAPIO is the best place to steal the best ideas from the best professionals in the industry.

Conference sessions can spark inspiration, and one such session I attended provided a lightning-bolt-of-clarity moment for me. Having come directly from 12 years in the parks and recreation field, I had never heard of a Communications Plan. Then at my very first conference, Scott Summerfield and Sherri Benninghoven from SAE Communications offered a session on how to create one. There’s a PLAN?! I like plans! The confidence this gave me was transformational – I realized that I could do this!

My encouragement: I bet there is something you do really well, and others are just waiting to hear it, so share it with other members! And if there’s something you want to learn more about, submit a session idea for a conference session or webinar.

One last thing I’ll miss is networking. Well, not the actual networking itself, but the benefits I gained when I forced myself to do it. And there was no better opportunity than when I served on the CAPIO Board from 2015 – 2020. It was an exciting time! We developed an ambitious strategic plan. We rebranded. Membership grew quickly as agencies across California were recognizing the value of government communications. And we pole danced. Well, the board members pole danced on the trolley on the way to  dinner at a conference in Sonoma. (Regulators – mount up!) It’s one of my favorite CAPIO memories, and one that I would have missed had I not stepped out of my comfort zone and networked.

My endorsement: Run for the board or volunteer for the conference committee or a regional event. (Pole dancing is not required…probably.)

But now, as I exit the job market, it’s a huge relief to attend a conference in my emotional support jeans and tunic, and not have to worry about networking and impressing anyone.

The number one thing I won’t miss when I retire is having a, you know, a job. Meetings. Zoom. Two phones. Deadlines! When people ask me what I’m going to do first in retirement, I tell them it’s shaking off that feeling of impending doom and deadlines that I just can’t seem to get away from lately. I can still be creative but doing it under the pressure of a deadline has definitely lost its thrill. So, let me go sit out on my patio with my watercolors and my coffee and be creative at my leisure.

For some parting words of wisdom, a few of my team members shared a few things they remembered from me and I want to pass them on to you.

  • Be the calm in the midst of the storm.
  • Details matter – in your work, but also in knowing your team.
  • Ask them, “How was your weekend?”
  • Answer the question, then stop talking.
  • And read the WHOLE damn email before replying.

Before I sign off, I want to thank my past and current team members, my fellow CAPIO Board members, and all of the amazing people who have made my 22 years in CAPIO unforgettable. As a past Paul B. Clark winner, I do have a lifetime membership, so who knows – maybe I’ll pop up again somewhere. And just because I’m retiring doesn’t mean you can’t interrupt my water coloring with questions. I’m happy to continue to contribute to the profession that has been the cornerstone of my life.

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