AFGE President John Gage to retire

Tuesday - 6/5/2012, 7:52pm EDT

American Federation of Government Employees president John Gage has announced he'll retire from his post at the largest federal-employee union.

Gage has served as national AFGE president since 2003. In a letter to union members, Gage called his tenure as president "challenging but invigorating years."

"Along the way there have been exhilarating wins and hard losses, one after another," Gage wrote. "Always they were accompanied by the reality of the next organizing drive, the next demonstration and the next election."

There are more than 600,000 AFGE members in the federal government. AFGE also represents D.C. government workers. There 1,100 AFGE locals around the country.

Gage began his federal career as a disability examiner for the Social Security Administration in 1974 and was first elected president of AFGE Local 1923 in 1982 after serving in a number of other positions in the local.

Gage graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. According to his official bio, he also played professional baseball with the Baltimore Orioles for a short stint in the late 1960s.

Gage, 66, said he's retiring to spend more time with his family.

Gage "has been a tireless defender of our nation's public servants during a time when they have been asked to do more with less," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement. "Under his leadership, AFGE has continued to be a leading voice for the collective bargaining rights of all our workers in this country."

Gage said he'll stay on with AFGE for the next ten weeks as the union finishes negotiating its first contract with the Transportation Security Administration.

He said he plans to leave the office in "excellent shape" for his successor.

"I'd like to think that AFGE is stronger now than it was nine years ago when I was elected national president," Gage wrote. "To me it feels like we're better than ever."

Click here to read the letter Gage sent to union members