|Richard Bean (Photo by Miles Cary)|
In fact, the last time he took a break was in 2005 after extensive jaw surgery.
And even then he missed only four days.
“I had my jaw wired for eight weeks and in that time I found out that McDonald’s has the biggest straw,” he said laughing. “I had to learn to eat everything through one, so I went shopping around.”
Bean, 73, has served as the supervisor of the Juvenile Service Center that bears his name for more than 41 years, and has accumulated 951 sick days — way more, he said, than he needs.
Now he wants to “set a darn good example” for the 65 or so employees who work under him, and “donate” 500 of them back to the county.
But exactly what that means remains to be seen.
“I really don’t know what to do with the days — this is the first time we’ve had someone do this,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who found out about the plan last week when Bean sent him a letter.
In the note, Bean said he was “very fortunate to have lived the life that I have,” and “will be forever grateful for the opportunities given me as an employee of Knox County.”
When asked Thursday about his proposal, Bean said it’s a mostly symbolic move and that technically the days will just disappear. He won’t be paid for them, and they won’t go to anyone else.
“Everyone says I’m crazy, but I’m trying to get my employees to learn to save them,” he said, adding that the last time he took a vacation was “probably 20 years or longer.”
“I told everyone for years that I was saving them up and I would donate 1,000 days,” he said. “Well, I just gave away half of them, so now I can work on the other half.”
The supervisor added that he doesn’t plan to retire, and he doesn’t plan to take any time off — at least in the near future.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do get sick, but I come to work anyway,” he said. “I just don’t tell anyone I’m sick. I just show up.”
Each year, county employees accrue 12 sick days, which roll over if unused. Because of his years of service, Bean also gets 24 vacation days, but workers can carry over only 42 of those, before they turn into sick days.
That means Bean — since he donated the 500 — still has 451 days left.
So, could he take off for a couple of years and still make a little coin?
“Oh, no way. (Mayor) Tim Burchett would probably come in shooting if I did that,” he said chuckling.
Well, not really.
“It never ceases to amaze me, Richard Bean’s generosity,” Burchett said. “He’s put his heart and soul in for the kids. He gets to work every day before the crack of dawn and he’s a veteran. You just can’t say enough good things about him.”
The Knox County Commission on Monday is expected to approve a plan to pay retiring employees up to $10,000 for unused accumulated sick leave. Those who support the plan said it will encourage employees to be more productive in their last year on the job and not to call in sick when they might not be.
Bean won’t be paid for the days he donated, but still has way more than enough left that could fall under the proposal.