As governments ask employees to contribute more toward health insurance premiums, you might be tempted to skimp on this expense when evaluating the household budget. DON'T.
If City of Hollister (Calif.) Community Services Director Clay Lee (one of our February cover subjects) had, he and his wife of 30 years would be bankrupt. Two years ago, the 53-year-old experienced a health crisis that — contrary to common perception — strikes anyone at any age. Two-thirds of the 795,000 Americans who suffer strokes each year are 65 years or older, but Lee sees 20-, 30-, and 40-year-olds in the doctor, surgeon, neuro-ophthalmologist, and physical, occupational, and speech therapist waiting rooms he's been visiting since Sept. 7, 2010. Nor does neurological disease run in his family.
He's the last person his friends, family, and 40 employees considered at risk. Physical activity is a lifelong love that began well before Lee earned a bachelor's degree in recreation administration. His diet wasn't great and he hadn't had his blood pressure or cholesterol levels checked in a few years, but he ran 3 to 5 miles a week in addition to coaching the high school girls' basketball team and playing recreationally himself.
Other people consider his job stressful: overseeing streets, storm drainage facilities, buildings and grounds, parks, water and wastewater service, and vehicles for a city of 35,000 people within 7.3 square miles. Yes, reductions-in-force challenge his team to maintain service levels. Yes, he worries how this year's retirement of key managers with 80 years of combined institutional knowledge will affect operations. But he didn't feel stressed out. “Everybody thinks of me as a low-key person even though I'm a ‘public official,'” he says.
Notice our use of the present tense. He could've retired with full benefits when a blocked carotid artery shut down the left side of his body, but no one's surprised that he's set rehabilitation records and plans to serve a few more years. In the 25 years since joining Hollister as recreation director, he's held various positions including personnel director (“a great experience, but not fun”) and still oversees public works.
“Although it's been a very difficult experience, I've learned a great amount,” he says. “I should've taken more time out for myself and just relaxed. People need to balance their lifestyle.”
Excellent advice for America's hard-working infrastructure managers from someone who learned the hard way.
— Stephanie Johnston,
Editor in Chief
P.S. Visit www.heart.org to learn about the FAST (Face Arm Speech Time) program for recognizing and mitigating damage from stroke.