Couple Leaves U.S. for New Zealand `Complete Disarray' of U.S. Prompted Move

Article excerpt

"Love it or leave it," the bumper stickers used to say.

Susan Rogers and her husband, John Roosen, have decided that, while they continue to love it, they have no choice but to leave it.

Both were career officers in the U.S. Coast Guard. After leaving the service, they built civilian careers - he as an environmental scientist, she most recently as general services director for Solano County, Calif. - that put them in the country's top 5 percent income bracket.

Rogers and Roosen are selling their dream house on two acres in rural Novato in Marin County where they lived with their three sons, discarding their cars, their central heating and their four beepers, to move to a village in New Zealand.

"This country is in complete disarray," said Rogers. "And it was our kids who were losing out.

Said Roosen, "We owe it to our kids (Christopher, 14, Nicholas, 9, and Timothy, 6) to raise them in a very different sort of environment."

On a recent visit to the United States, Rogers said the schools in New Zealand "are so warm, so human. There are no chain-link fences, windowless walls."

She recalled the hopelessness of her previous job. "As general services director, I managed all the internal services for the county. That means all the purchases, all the communications, building and maintaining the jails and all the other county buildings.

"And for years I was meeting annually with general services directors from all over the state, all sitting around talking about how desperate it was, wondering where it would all end.

"What happened to Orange County didn't surprise me at all. There are a lot of counties on the brink of bankruptcy. San Diego was so desperate they built a jail out of Styrofoam and two prisoners dug their way out of their cells with spoons. . ."

In a piece she wrote for the newspaper in Nelson, New Zealand, she described the day that put it all in perspective:

"I had been summoned to the sheriff's office to discuss the $77,000 project to ensure television channels could be easily controlled by the prisoners in every cellblock. . . On that very same day I was with the library director explaining why general services could not do any maintenance on her heating and cooling systems for the main library. …