Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Billy Folsom Announces His Retirement

There will likely be cheers and toasts all around as the male members of the Costa Mesa City Council and their sycophants belly-up to the bar at Skosh Monahan's when they hear the news that Billy Folsom has decided to retire.  Folsom, who has put more than three decades into serving the residents of this city, will retire after more than 31 years on March 4, 2013.


Although described pejoratively by one councilman not too long ago as a "Jiffy Lube Guy", Folsom, in addition to spending long years keeping the city fleet - including the police cars and fire fighting equipment - on the road to help our public safety folks keep us safe, has performed duties not normally associated with the title "Equipment Mechanic III".  While he was qualified to maintain virtually every piece of rolling stock in the city inventory, his skills and experience created opportunities for him to provide expert testimony at court relative to crime scenes, for example.


He also has been active in the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA), including a tour as that organization's president.  He has been part of the negotiating team that met with city officials on contract issues.  He's been described by folks on both sides of the table as a reasonable negotiator who always represented the employees well but also never lost sight of the bigger picture.  When it was clear that the City needed help from the association he was there to help craft ways for that to happen.


Helen Nenadal, current president of the CMCEA, said she will be sorry to see him go because he was always at her shoulder helping her through the tough times - especially the past couple years.  She told me he always represented the employees with class and tenacity and they trusted him to present their side of issues with courtesy and clarity.  She emphasized that he always put the employees first.


When asked about her reaction to Billy retiring councilwoman Wendy Leece said, "Billy's passion for his job, his city and the people of Costa Mesa inspires all of us to be true to ourselves and to stand on principle no matter the cost.  Thank you Billy for serving the good people of Costa Mesa for more than 30 years and maintaining all our vehicles. As a resident, I hope you will continue to stay involved in city politics."


Former council woman Katrina Foley offered her observation of Billy Folsom:
“As a Costa Mesa City Council member I knew that we could always depend on Billy as a top notch mechanic to extend the life of our city vehicles, and ensure that city patrol vehicles and motor bikes were always safe and running well.  He saved us a lot of money over the years in vehicle maintenance and purchase costs. I’m appreciative of his community involvement and I’m sure it’s not the last we will see of Billy. I wish him well in retirement... He earned it.”


I did not solicit comments from other members of the council for very obvious reasons.  Maybe the best one is this photograph, taken the evening last year when Billy received his 30 year service award.  As he stood with the other recipients for the obligatory group photograph he opened his sweat shirt to reveal his t-shirt with the clear statement of how he felt about how that council was doing business.  Chuckles throughout the auditorium could be heard and, even though the message sent was accurate, it did get him reprimanded.  Such is life in the trenches among Costa Mesa city employees lately.


I corresponded with Billy Folsom today after I learned of his pending retirement and asked him a few questions.  Here's how that Q&A went:

Cauldron -
How many years with the City?  I think it's 31, right?
Folsom - 31 years as of Dec 14 2012

Cauldron - What was your progression - first job, etc.?
Folsom - I started out as a Mechanic l after a year Mechanic ll after another year Mechanic lll spent 18 months as a Supervisor though they stiffed me on that.

Cauldron - Best part of your experience as an employee?
Folsom - The best part other than having the honor to serve the people of Costa Mesa was the fact that as a shop we were asked to do a whole host of projects that no other vehicle shops would normally do. An example would be fabrication of a number of things like roof ladders, trailers, camera systems for the jail.I built many "bait cars" and "bait bikes" that were remotely controlled some of which are still in use. I also built our armored SWAT vehicle  from a Brinks armored truck. It was always fun working with people from the DEA to help them find dope in drug runner's cars and I assisted in somewhere near 300 accident investigations as a mechanical analyst which included many high profile cases. I had to testify in court against my friend Sid Soffer and had to give many depositions in relation to many fatal traffic accidents. Of course other than the variety of duties which always kept things fresh and challenging were the great people I worked with, to many to mention and I would forget someone if I made a list.

Cauldron - Worst experience (s) as an employee?
Folsom - There have been a few grizzly investigations dealing with human remains especially when children were involved but the worst thing has been the systematic dismantling of a great organization, whether by design or default, in the last two years knowing the whole time it could have been avoided with must less heartache and expense. To see so many really good people leave for greener pastures and the sadness of my fellow workers who felt betrayed and confounded. I absolutely hate leaving my co-workers in such a state of uncertainty but I had already put my retirement off a couple of times and a new business and other family matters require most of my time so it was time to pull the plug.

Cauldron -  How will they replace you, with all the varied things you do?
Folsom - No one is irreplaceable and there are others out there with many of the same skills and even more that could pick them up in short order.

Cauldron - You were President of the CMCEA, right?  When, and for how long?

Folsom -
I was President of the CMCEA a few times. I think it totaled 18 years or so.

Cauldron - Your take on Mensinger's COIN plan - to have negotiations out in the open?
Folsom - The biggest problem with the two cents ordinance is that it only goes half way. It should have included all contract negotiations with all vendors with all communications between council people, commission people and contractors open to public scrutiny. Failing that it's just a publicity stunt.

Cauldron - Plans for your retirement?
Folsom - I am starting a new business, Dumb Biker Visions which will be essentially a photography business with the core being stock shots and the fruit promoting local bands and small business. I have one son starting a business also who I hope to help get off the ground then I'm planning another business if all goes well but all this pales to the vast Honey Do list that has amassed over the years. I will still be doing the biker thing and posting on Facebook and it will all tie in to the photography thing and maybe get expanded to a little video log ala Huell Howser.

Cauldron - What will you miss, if anything, when you retire?
Folsom - I will miss interacting with my co-workers and getting projects completed knowing it is keeping the city as a whole running. I hope not to miss the people as I plan to hang with them as much as I can.

Cauldron - Anything else you wish to say?
Folsom -
It's been a good run, I was "incorporated" the same year as Costa Mesa and hope the city celebrates all it's great citizens and heritage so we don't forget why we live here and in that vein I hope to see some of the new organizations like CM4RG stay active and keep Costa Mesa Costa Mesa. Who knows where I'll pop up. 

Billy later added that he neglected to mention that he met the love of his life eleven years ago, stating that he would not be where he is today without her and that he plans to do more surfing and is building a new skateboard for the park... watch out for that flying beard!


Billy Folsom has served the City of Costa Mesa with dedication and distinction for more than half his life and will be missed.  His creativity, flexibility, dedication and institutional knowledge will be very difficult to replace.  We wish him well and suspect we've not seen the last of him.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Scheafer on Fitzpatrick's Resignation

Costa Mesa Sanitary District Director Mike Scheafer has signed in with an opinion on Jim Fitzpatrick's decision to resign his seat on that board in a commentary in the Daily Pilot, HERE.

Scheafer, a nearly life-long activist in Costa Mesa, is a former member of the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission.  Over the years he, among other things, has been the President of the Lions Club and a driving force behind the Fish Fry; President of the Board of the Costa Mesa Senior Center and is currently the Chairman of the 60th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

I'll let you read the commentary and form your own opinion, but he wraps it up with a very important observation when he says, "Fitzpatrick is not a victim of others; he inflicted the problems that surround his resignation from the Sanitary District board on himself."  Yep...

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Helicopters At City Hall!

Those of you who live near Costa Mesa City Hall will be treated to an old, familiar sound Tuesday through Thursday this week - the sound of helicopters once again landing on the helipad behind the Emergency Operations Center at City Hall.  As you will recall, ever since the City Council decided to abandon the A.B.L.E. helicopter program as a money-saving exercise, the number of helicopters that visited the helipad since then have been few and far between.

In a press release today the City announced that a Mercy Air Ambulance will land at the helipad at about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday as part of a three-day training exercise for Costa Mesa firefighters.

According to the release, Mercy Air Ambulance provides air ambulance transport for the critically injured.  The training will include how to work near a helicopter with its blades turning, proper techniques for loading patients, and, in the event of an emergency, how to shut down the helicopter.

I don't know how you feel, but that that sounds pretty darn exciting to me, so I might try to find my way over to City Hall late in the morning this week to watch.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saying Goodbye To My Friend

AUGUST 21, 1928 - JANUARY 26, 2013


This is a bittersweet weekend for us.  Our great neighbor and friend, Wayne D. Stanfield, passed away peacefully at his home Saturday afternoon following a battle with cancer.  We are deeply saddened at his passing and for the tremendous void it creates in our lives, but know he is now where he wanted to be - with his wonderful wife, Barbara, who pre-deceased him in May of 2010, HERE.


Wayne and Barbara - we say their names like it was one word because it seemed like they were never apart - have been our friends since the very first day we took occupancy of our home more than 39 years ago.  We learned of Wayne's kindness and selflessness that day when he spent three hours helping us unplug our guest shower drain.  That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship - one in which they welcomed us to the neighborhood, into their lives and, eventually, embraced us as members of their family.


Wayne operated a family plumbing business in Costa Mesa for more than a half-century.  He and his son, also Wayne, did the work and Barbara helped with the paperwork.  Wayne was a hardworking, honest man who lived a true Christian life.  In all the years that I've called him my friend I've never known him to say an unkind or harsh word to or about anyone.

He and Barbara were married for more than 63 years, having been childhood sweethearts as they grew up in Banning, California.  Their affection for each other was obvious every day that we knew them.  Barbara's passing two and half years ago was deeply felt by all who knew her, but Wayne was devastated.  He would carry a framed photo of her with him as he drove around town in his 1931 Model A Ford coupe and shared stories of their lives together to all who would listen.


Wayne may have been the kindest man I've ever known.  He spent a lifetime helping others - friends and strangers alike.  For example, for years he and Barbara and their children would gather toys and other gifts for the Hopi Indians in Arizona and would personally transport and distribute them over the Christmas holiday each year.  They sought no thanks or recognition for this tremendous act of kindness - they just saw a need and filled it.  If you needed advice on a project Wayne was your guy.  He not only provided guidance, but would just jump in and help you do it correctly.

For more than half my life Wayne Stanfield was a friend, neighbor and mentor, selflessly sharing his life experience as a God-loving man by example.  There is simply not enough space here to recount all the stories of the joy we shared with him over these years.  I smile as I recall decades of dune buggy and boating adventures and the wonderful times we spent with him just hanging out or helping with projects.  Age-wise, he was more like an older brother, but everyone called him "Father" - such was the esteem in which he was held by all who knew him.


Wayne is survived by his children, Wayne K. Stanfield (Theresa) of Santa Ana and Cathy Binnquist (Bruce) of Costa Mesa, four grand children, eight great grandchildren and hundreds of friends.  A celebration of his life will be held later this week, followed by a private family service at a future date.