Marianne Gebert: Oversees Counseling

JANUARY 2002
- Program At State Retirement Board - One of the most sensitive jobs at the State Retirement Board is that
of counselor. Whether it be an employee who is seeking retirement
benefit information, a retiree questioning his pension check or a
surviving spouse asking for guidance, one of the Board's seven
counselors will be the first line of communication for members of the
State Retirement System.

The
responsibility for coordinating and overseeing these counselors is that
of Retirement Counselor Supervisor Marianne Gebert, who at age 41, has
been with the Board for twenty years.

After
receiving a communications degree from Boston College Gebert, then
Marianne Walsh, was first hired by Treasurer Bob Crane to work in the
Board's refund department.

"My dad,
Albert Walsh, went to school in Brighton with Bob. At age 18, dad
fought on Iwo Jima with the 4th Marine Division. Bob was also Marine. I
guess you could say that helped me get started," Gebert acknowledged.

In
the years since starting with the job, Gebert has earned her stripes.
"I started under Jim Callanan, who was the Board's director. He was a
taskmaster who insisted on a good day's work," she said. "But he was
very loyal to the employees and really a soft-hearted man."

During
the Shannon O'Brien Administration, Gebert has served under Ellen
Philbin, the Board's director for the past three years. "Ellen is a
no-nonsense woman who is respectful of the employees and any
suggestions they may have. The lines of communication are open and
clear at all times," said Gebert.

Gebert
agrees that working as a counselor is indeed a sensitive job. "If an
employee is nearing retirement he or she needs accurate pension
information. That employee is planning for the future based on his
pension and survivor's options. And this is only one aspect of our
extensive retirement law that our counselors must be familiar with.
Counselors are dealing with employees' lives," she pointed out.

"The
option that a retiree selects for a surviving spouse must be very clear
to both parties. We do everything possible to ascertain that the spouse
understands what his or her benefits will be (or not be) in the event
of death.

"The training of our
counselors is ongoing. They must stay current with any changes in the
retirement law, both for employees and retirees. And counselors must be
clear, concise and patient when interacting with the members of the
system."

Gebert also stressed the extensive outreach program conducted by the Board.

"When
asked, we will send counselors to any agency to meet with employees on
a group or individual basis. We bring a laptop and if the agency's
phone system is compatible, can access anyone's records at the Board."

Bob
Minue, deputy director of the State Board, started work the same month
and year as Gebert. "Marianne's career at the Board has paralleled
mine," he said. "She's been a credit to our Retirement Board and our
counseling program is in good hands. And being relatively young she'll
be around for many more years."

"Well,
because of our Group 1 retirement formula, Bob is right in that sense,"
said Marianne. "People who do enter service at a young age are
penalized under the current formula. But there is always hope for
change."

Since she, by her own
words, "really loves" her job, and retirement is a long way off, state
retirees can count on Marianne being around for awhile at least.

Tags: