Employee union chief to retire

The president of Costa Mesa's municipal employee union plans to retire after 32 years with the city.

Helen Nenadal's last workday is Dec. 20. The facilities maintenance technician heads the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn.

"It's been great working for the city for that long," Nenadal said Wednesday. "When you're working for the city that long, you become a city family. You're at work more than you're at home."

Her career started as a part-time softball coach. She has served as CMCEA president for the last four years. The union represents about 200 municipal workers.

Nenadal said she had "mixed emotions" about her decision, given that "You're leaving your city family after so many years."

"More so, we have gotten closer together, the employees, in the last three or four years, under the circumstances," she added.

In recent years the association's leadership has been at odds with the City Council majority, which wants to reign in employment costs, such as pensions.

In a Daily Pilot commentary, Nenadal recently called the majority's actions disruptive to morale — as evidenced in a recent citywide study — for a workforce grappling with City Hall turmoil, including proposed layoffs and political attacks.

"Helen has led Costa Mesa city employees through one of the most challenging eras in the city's history with compassion, commitment and unwavering determination to protect her co-workers and preserve the Costa Mesa community's way of life," Orange County Employees Assn. spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said in a prepared statement. "After serving residents for more than 30 years, we wish her all the best in her retirement, and we'll miss her very much."

The CMCEA is currently negotiating for an updated employment contract, a contentious process made more public since the approval of Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's COIN ordinance.

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