The Road to Retirement – Bobbie Roberts

by | Apr 9, 2021 | Retirement Planning, Stories

Taking the Backroads

It almost seems counter cultural in our working world to meet someone like Bobbie who isn’t trying to rush towards retirement and to move on to something that we perceive to be greener on the other side.  Bobbie found a passion for her work and balanced it with a pace of rest giving her longevity and joy.  She seems to know when it’s time to drive fast and when it’s best to drive slow…literally and figuratively.  She’s taken the backroads to retirement.

Small town Girl with a Big Heart

Bobbie is a small town girl with a big heart.  She was born and raised in the same small logging and farming community her father grew up in.  The small town community and outdoor living was something she carried with her into her career.  It’s what drew her to it and kept her rooted in it.

Breaking Molds

Breaking the mold and busting up expectations seems to be a pattern for this brave woman.  She broke into a “man’s industry” in the early 70’s by going to work for Montana Power.  At her first review, she said, “I’d like to read meters if you’d consider a woman to do that kind of work.”  Her bold ask broke the mold and she found herself as a meter reader.  The job required lots of driving and getting outside.  This suited Bobbie perfectly as she uses driving as a hobby and a stress release.

Bobbie continued to advance in her career as she moved into the hydro plant located in the Thompson Falls area.  She felt at home in the small logging community and thrived in the physically demanding job.  She values being a team player, which lead to her next move where she stayed for over 40 years.

Her Final Destination

Bobbie became a Transmission Dispatcher out of Butte.  Driving backroads, hunting for rocks, taking her time…is a contrast of pace she has learned to leverage.  Her job as a dispatcher is a fast paced, think and move quickly type of job where the safety of her team is at stake. When lines go down, it’s her job to make sure the work site is safe and clear of power so that her team can go to work with repair.  While she spends much of that time giving orders and clearance over a radio, one of her favorite parts of the job has always been building relationships with her team.  She’d ask the crew if she could drive out to them and watch them in action.  Sporting her stand out orange hard hat, she’d come in with her positive, get ‘er done attitude and encourage the men.  She felt it was important for them to have a face behind the radio they were hearing.  Relationship was key to her teams moving quickly and solving problems in a safe and efficient timeframe.

A Pace of Run then Rest

It only takes a few minutes of visiting with Bobbie to love her cheery disposition and frequent laughs.  She’s an incredible mix of drive and rest. She enjoys that about being a dispatcher…once you leave work, you are done.  Taking on the big challenges is what excited her about her job.  They still tell the story of a big power outage in Colstrip where the weather was 20 below freezing and the winds were whipping which created all kinds of complex obstacles.  Solve the problem then celebrate and recreate.  That’s the pace this leg of her race has been.

The Retirement Destination: Her Next Adventure

All roads come to an end.  After 50 years of commitment, Bobbie will be officially retired this July.  Ryan said, “Gabe and I have been trying to convince Bobbie to retire for years, but she had an important job and important goals to achieve. Congrats on all your hard work.”  While her road in the power industry is coming to a close, the backroad exploration and adventuring is only just beginning.  When asked, “what will retirement mean for you?” she answered “it means getting in the car and going for drives (after I clean my house)….get in a vehicle and just go….take the off roads.”  Her drive for work will be replaced with her drive for life…Enjoying, exploring and volunteering her time.  “I am a person who needs something to do.  I’ve seen people with nothing to do after retirement not live long.  I think people need to have something to do…to live for.”  She’s excited to make plans for extended drive times by wintering in Arizona, volunteering in her community and church and picking up those rocks she’s collected and learning to polish them.  Her road to retirement hasn’t been traditional and it wasn’t on the interstate pace, but she’s found some gems along the way that she’s collected and treasured.  Congratulations, Bobbie.  You are a gem and we’re sure Northwestern Energy will notice the gap you leave behind in retirement.

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