JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City’s police chief, public works director and parks and recreation director are among 23 city employees who have opted into a recently offered retirement incentive.

Police Chief Karl Turner, Public Works Director Phil Pindzola and Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis will officially retire on Feb. 28 along with 20 others who’ve worked at least 30 years for the city. Some retirement dates could be staggered and come later by a number of weeks if needed to provide essential services.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola is retiring Feb. 28 after 44 years with the city. (WJHL photo)

City Manager Cathy Ball and other leaders floated the plan last fall, and city commissioners approved it in December. The department heads and the other 20 employees all had at least 30 years’ tenure at the city and represented about a third of the 58 employees who were eligible.

Employees had until Tuesday to decide whether to accept the deal, which included a one-time payment of six months’ salary and an offer to remain on Johnson City’s health insurance program, along with their dependents, until they turn 65.

City management wanted at least a month’s notice so leadership could “start focusing on where we need to transfer that institutional knowledge,” Assistant City Manager Randy Trivette told News Channel 11 in late December.

Leaders also wanted to minimize impacts of a so-called “silver tsunami” due to a large number of longtime employees retiring in quick succession. Eight of the eligible employees were department heads.

Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner is taking advantage of the city’s early retirement program. (WJHL photo)

Mayor Todd Fowler raised the issue and praised the incentive at a Kiwanis Club meeting Wednesday.

“When you’ve got 1,000 employees and you’ve got a bunch of them that could retire tomorrow and you don’t know when anybody’s going to retire it’s really, really scary,” Fowler said.

He said knowing ahead of time, especially in the case of department heads, decreases the “ouch” factor as decades of institutional knowledge depart. Pindzola, for example, has worked more than 44 years at the city, having started in September 1978.

Five other department heads were eligible for the incentive but chose to stay on.

The police department had the highest number of people taking the incentive, with seven. In addition to Turner, Assistant Chief Debbie Botelho and Captain Kevin Peters, who heads the department’s criminal investigation division, are among them. Sergeant Lorrie Goff, who oversees the school resource officer program, is also retiring.

Water and sewer and public works each have five people retiring through the program, while parks and recreation has two. Other departments with one retiree each are purchasing, fire, fleet management and risk management.