Long-time St. John DPW Deputy Director Ira Wade, above at right, took a moment with Lt. Gov. Greg Francis after the Inauguration festivities last January.
After originally trying to retire 22 years ago when he moved to the Virgin Islands, Ira Wade has now officially entered his golden years.
The former Department of Public Works Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Wade officially retired from public service last month. But he first tried to enjoy retirement in 1989 after ending a 30-year military career which took him to Germany, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
Three months into his 1989 retirement in the Virgin Islands, however, Hurricane Hugo swept through the territory. With his military background in logistics, Wade couldn’t sit idly by and applied for a job to help FEMA in the aftermath of the hurricane.
After working for FEMA, Wade moved to the Department of Human Services where he oversaw the territory’s food stamp program.
In 1995, DPW lured him away to become Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the island of St. John and since then he has overseen projects ranging from road paving, repairs and maintenance to tree cutting and even the Cruz Bay roundabout construction.
Wade officially retired from DPW on September 30, in part to deal with some nagging physical issues. He recently traveled to the states to meet with doctors about a possible knee replacement, but hoped to back in Love City by the middle of November.
“Right now I’m seeking treatment and just relaxing,” he said. “Besides the health issues, I just got tired. It was time for new blood in the department.”
That new blood for DPW is Dale Braithwaite, an eight-year St. John DPW veteran, who took over for Wade seamlessly in October.
“Dale is ready for this,” said Wade. “He’s been working with us in the shadows, watching what is going on. He has a good heart and he’s a diligent worker.”
“I think he knows the business and it’s his time,” Wade said. “We’re in good hands and there is no doubt in my mind that he was the best person for the job. He’s going to take care of the people of St. John.”
Braithwaite has already been working hard to keep the island’s roadways clear of overgrown bush and is excited about being able to help the community, he explained.
“I’ve been with the department about eight years and I’ve learned a lot,” said Braithwaite. “The best part of the job is just helping the public. I just try to help everybody and I will continue to do the great job that Mr. Wade did for so many years.”
When news of Wade’s retirement spread last week, residents across St. John wished him well.
“Certainly I think everyone can appreciate the many, many improvements that Ira Wade has personally been responsible for during his years of service to St. John and the Virgin Islands,” said Sharon Coldren, president of the Coral Bay Community Council. “We will certainly miss him and we wish him well as he enters real retirement.”
Wade was always available for the people of St. John at any hour, explained Bonny Corbeil.
“Ira always got out of his warm bed at any hour to deal with issues that simply required Public Work’s attention,” she said. “After Carnival or storms, he was the guy working tirelessly to see that the job was done. Ira was one of those bosses whose work ethic served as a role-model at every opportunity.”
“Ira would never ask any worker to do anything that he wouldn’t do, and that speaks highly of his character,” Corbeil said. “Ira is a kind and good man who has been an absolute asset to St. John for many years now. He deserves to enjoy life a little more and I look forward to his involvement in community issues as a caring resident.”
While he admitted to missing his job at times, Wade definitely plans to enjoy his hard-earned retirement.
“Some days you wake up with withdrawal symptoms almost,” he said. “But I think you know when it’s time, so you have to do what you have to do and hope for best. It’s definitely less stressful — it’s similar to taking 5,000 pounds off your shoulders.”