A Costa Mesa city mechanic, who became an outspoken critic of a proposal to outsource some of the city's workforce, said Thursday that he plans to retire after some 31 years of service.
Billy Folsom, who maintains and repairs city vehicles, including those used by the Police and Fire departments, will leave his post in March.
The 59-year-old Costa Mesa resident also served multiple terms as president of the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. and was known to speak his mind during the public-comments portion of council meetings.
"As all employees who have had their tenure here, he will be deeply missed," said CMCEA President Helen Nenadal. "He has been a spokesman for the city employees, especially during these hard times during the last couple years."
Through the decades, Folsom was involved in several contract negotiations between the CMCEA and the city, including one in 2010 that concluded months before the council majority announced its intent to lay off nearly half the city's employees as part of a far-reaching austerity measure. The layoffs have since been rescinded by the council, although the association's lawsuit in response to them is still winding its way through the courts.
Folsom recalled his feelings Thursday about council's March 2011 decision.
"That was just a bad way of doing things for them and it made everybody upset," Folsom said. "It wasn't the right thing to do ... it's just sad that [the city] had to spend all that money on legal fees when we could've been spending it somewhere else."
The employees had never seen such animosity before, he said.
"It only became obvious when we were attacked and put on the defensive ... we always had cooperation," Folsom said. "If we needed to make concessions, we always came to the table."
Nenadal called Folsom a man of character who did his work with heart and pride. Employees came to him with concerns, she said, and he listened.
"He did it with class. He did it with heart and compassion," she said. "Just an overall great guy, friend and co-worker. He was there for the employees."
Mayor Jim Righeimer commended Folsom's long service with the city. He said he hasn't known Folsom on a personal level for a long time, but that their rapport has improved in recent months since the November election.
"The relationship is a lot better than it was in the beginning," Righeimer said. "He's a good guy to work with and talk with ... we wish him the best wishes in all his future endeavors."