I have mixed emotions about the whole thing.
City Hall’s loss is hopefully Jan Johnston’s gain. Either way a fabulous human being has retired and I can confidently say no one will ever fully replace Jan. That is not a bad thing – simply a reality.
No matter how skilled, knowledgeable or adaptable the new to-be-appointed Confidential Secretary to the Mayor is – he/she will quite simply not be Jan. The Jan Johnston production template or mold produced just one Jan – and she has now voluntarily stepped to the sidelines for a well deserved retirement rest.
In the world of front-line workers Jan was a superstar.
The popular, hard working and cheery Jan began working at Kelowna City Hall 32 years ago and 19 years ago took on the arduous role as the mayor’s receptionist/secretary. Whether planned or accidental Jan also took on organizing and assisting elected councilors as well. She played professional Mom to all nine of us on a regular basis though she would insist such was not the case.
When I first learned that Jan was retiring three words aptly describing her immediately popped into my head – rare, reliable and remarkable.
Jan had the rare skill of reading people almost instantly upon meeting them and responding perfectly. She was quick on her feet mentally – diffusing situations before they even started.
Reliable. When Jan took on a task, any task, you could rest assured it was going to be handled. Jan almost always had an immediate answer to any question or request. If she didn’t – she would find it for you. (Relentless could also be added to the three R’s.) From passing messages, to connecting people, ordering lunches, supplies, setting up meetings … if Jan was on it then it was a done deal.
She was also reliable at the tender times. When no one else cared – Jan did.
Remarkable. Jan was truly inspiring in her genuine, gentle nature and love for people – yet strong when need be. Not only cold she troubleshoot almost any scenario – she would do so cheerfully and almost always appear unfazed by it all. Jan rarely raised her voice or responded in a negative way to anything said or done – unless the scenario demanded such a reaction. Even then it was applied only as a protective film. (No one messed with her councilors or the mayor!) In any storm she remained ‘remarkably’ calm.
I’m not sure about other Councilors but Jan nails every tick box on my Remarkable list. Remarkable, by the way, ranks higher than ‘amazing’. It’s itching close to sainthood and all of it begins with kindness.
Log before Dr. Henry made ‘be kind’ a part of our daily speech it was part of Jan’s daily mantra and persona as she calmly worked full speed at her chaotic workplace. Despite the pandemonium she always ready to happily help.
I rudely asked Jan if her departure was health related since she’d taken some time off recently. She insisted her retirement is not solely about health concerns.
“I am looking forward to my retirement as a way to restore my good health and distance myself from the pandemic a bit more, but I will miss you all,” Jan wrote.
“I am old enough to retire you know,” she chuckled to me later, adding that she can hardly wait to get into her garden and enjoy a summer with some time leisure on her hands.
The way I see it, eliminating a full day’s work at City Hall is a great start to stress reduction.
I hope such is indeed the case for Jan and that her retirement is a pre-emptive strike to good health and happy days in the yard. I praise her for the wisdom to take the time to smell the flowers in life after so many years of working in a firestorm.
So, on behalf of those co-workers at City Hall who do not have the pleasure of a public voice such as I do – THANK YOU Jan Johnston. You have made our world a better place just by being in it.
May the joy, kindness, and caring you always shared for everyone around you now surround you in your retirement. You are already missed.