Billy Folsom, a Costa Mesa city mechanic and former employee association president, is retiring in March after working for the city for more than 30 years. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / February 7, 2013)

Councilwoman Wendy Leece says that she’s loved Folsom’s “true grit, and the fact he speaks his mind and stands on principle no matter what people think.

“Billy’s 30-year commitment to the city and his dedication to keeping our vehicles in top shape speak volumes,” Leece says.

Retirement plans

“It’s almost like they make your job impossible just to say you can’t do it.”

That’s part of how Folsom describes the job now. He concedes that he’s leaving at a time when, though better in some ways than two years ago, the city is still facing a difficult situation. Some tasks at his shop, like delivering parts, used to be a done by a part-time worker.

Now Folsom says he does it himself, taking up an hour of travel time that could be better spent elsewhere.

“They’re paying me a mechanic’s wage to be a parts driver,” he says. “That’s not the right thing to do.”

For the first time in his decades in Costa Mesa, he says, the CMCEA has been put on the defensive, facing attacks from a council majority intent on controlling spending for employees’ pensions, in particular, and outsourcing some divisions.

“We knew what the numbers were,” he adds. “We were always honest with each other. If we needed to put more into our pensions, we put more into our pensions. If we needed to take a cut in pay, we took a cut in pay. If we needed a furlough day, we took a furlough day.

“We always sat down at the table and put the truth out there and bargained with that truth in mind.”

The anti-union banter has lightened since the November election, though, he says.

Besides, there’s “no one to be aggressive with,” he adds. “The staff is so pared-down. They have to keep the people they have now.”

As far as outsourcing? He doesn’t think it’ll be much cheaper. The street-sweeping bidders probably “fudged their numbers” to get lower than the city’s, he claims. The city’s program is very efficient, he says.

But being on the front lines of those debates is likely behind him now, as his retirement comes soon after his 60th birthday in March.

He’s applying with the city to have a photography business and is also interested in starting his own music promotion gig for everything from blues to metal, especially for small venues. He enjoys plenty of hobbies, including motorcycles and boats.

He has seven kids, all grown up now — the youngest was just accepted to Ohio State — and four grandchildren to keep tabs on as well.

And through it all, he wants to stay in Costa Mesa.

“I’ll be involved in the community,” he says. “I’m not planning on moving out, ya know? If I won the lottery, I’d just get a bigger, badder place here.”

bradley.zint@latimes.com
Twitter: @bradleyzint