Roger Work, general manager of the Huntington Beach Co., the city's largest private landowner, has been reassigned to a post with its parent firm, Chevron USA.
Work, the land and development company's top administrator for the past decade, has become Chevron's director of long-range product development, said state Assemblyman Thomas J. Mays (R-Huntington Beach), after a telephone interview with Chevron officials Wednesday.
Chevron representatives declined to independently confirm Work's new job, but acknowledged that he has left the Huntington Beach Co.
Work, whose new duties would include acquiring, developing, selling and managing land owned by Chevron, has been succeeded by Jim Johnson, who has worked 22 years for Chevron, most recently as senior vice president of its Pacific Coast Homes Inc. subsidiary. The Huntington Beach company has built single-family houses in that city as well as in Fullerton, La Habra and Riverside.
Neither Work nor Johnson were available for comment Wednesday.
Most government, business and community leaders interviewed, however, said they were surprised by Work's departure from the Huntington Beach Co.
Huntington Beach Mayor Peter M. Green said he was unaware that such a move was even being considered. But Green said he believes the timing is right for the change, noting that the city and the company recently finalized terms of a pivotal development agreement.
The Holly-Seacliff agreement covers the company's development of a 768-acre area of northwest Huntington Beach, including 3,700 single-family homes, a neighborhood shopping center and business offices.
Huntington Beach City Administrator Michael T. Uberuaga, who squared off with Work during the Holly-Seacliff development agreement talks, declined to comment on how the change in leadership may affect the city's relationship with the company. During those negotiations, Uberuaga said, Work "carried his company's interests with a lot of vigor."
For decades a powerful lobbyist in many development issues and a key player and financial backer in city political campaigns, the Huntington Beach Co. has often drawn criticism from citizen activists and some council members.
Councilwoman Grace Winchell, a limited-growth advocate, said she hopes the company's change in leadership will refocus its business philosophy.
"I hope (Work's) replacement will be a broader-minded person with a more comprehensive view of the community, being sensitive to all its aspects rather than just the company's needs," she said.
Former Huntington Beach Mayor Wes Bannister, who since leaving the City Council last December has stayed in contact with Work, said he believes the move may portend an imminent retirement for Work.
"He had indicated to me he was going to retire this summer," Bannister said Wednesday. "He was talking about moving up north."