The Office of Personnel Management says farewell today to Ed Flynn, who is retiring from the civil service. It's a big loss.

In the past decade, Flynn has played a critical role in almost every benefits program important to federal employees. He ran, for example, the federal employee health insurance program, oversaw the federal retirement systems and helped win congressional approval of the long-term care insurance benefit.

For the last year, he has served as senior policy adviser to OPM Director Kay Coles James, focusing on an array of issues. They include the personnel provisions in the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security and the internal restructuring of OPM.

Flynn, 56, joined the government in 1972. The Vietnam veteran began at the old Civil Service Commission, OPM's predecessor agency. He started out as a budget analyst and then held a series of jobs at headquarters and in regional offices. From 1994 to 2002, he was the associate director for retirement and insurance at OPM and oversaw budget accounts worth $70 billion.

Flynn's departure, to some degree, symbolizes an annual phenomenon in the government. The first Friday of the new year is a traditional retirement date for employees covered by the government's old pension system, because it ensures a seamless transition from the active-duty payroll to the first monthly retirement check.

The day also marks the beginning of a transition at many agencies, as experienced hands leave. That will likely be the case at OPM, where Flynn, as the senior career official, has served as the brain trust for political appointees and lawmakers trying to sort out the pros and cons on civil service issues.

In a telephone interview, Flynn played down the loss of any institutional memory at OPM, saying it will be offset by the agency's senior staff, including four new associate directors recently hired by James.

Flynn said he takes pride in having helped introduce to the federal system more-modern benefits such as long-term care insurance; the "premium conversion" program, which allows employees to pay their health insurance premiums in pretax dollars; and the plan to provide employees with flexible spending accounts for dependent care and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

"I feel honored to have been a part of that," he said.

Taking retirement, Flynn said, "is an odd feeling" -- a mixture of sadness in leaving and the excitement of new challenges. Later this month, Flynn said, he will join Hewitt Associates, the human resources consulting firm, as a managing consultant for federal sector programs.

Retirements Laurence G. Bowman, who specialized in federal assistance for water and wastewater projects in rural America, retires today after 34 years with the Agriculture Department.

John P. Hunt Jr., assistant director for natural resources and environment issues in the General Accounting Office's Atlanta field office, retires today after more than 32 years of federal service.

Ronald B. Merrill of the Health and Human Services Department retires today after 42 years of federal service. He directed the public health branch of the Bureau of Health Professions.

John Miller, chief of the currency reporting and compliance division at the Internal Revenue Service, retired Saturday after more than 35 years of federal service.

Robert S. Sherman, director of labor and employee relations for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, retires today after 32 years of federal service. He also held human resource positions in the State Department, the Patent and Trademark Office and other agencies.

Raymond J. Smith, who joined the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation at the time of its inception in 1974, retires today after more than 36 years in the civil service and the Army. A management analyst throughout his federal service, Smith has been responsible for the PBGC's strategic plan and customer satisfaction surveys for the past few years.

Talk Shows Christopher Marston, chief of staff at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will be the guest on "The Business of Government Hour" at 8 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Is It Time for Federal Employees to Get Political?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

Stephen Barr's e-mail address is barrs@washpost.com.