Exit Plan

Michael Houlemard has served as executive officer of FORA since 1997, three years after Fort Ord shut down. He will retire this December.

As the Fort Ord Reuse Authority enters the crucial last year before it’s set to sunset, the agency is facing an exodus of its top staffers, including Michael Houlemard who has helmed FORA nearly since its inception.

Taking with them decades of institutional knowledge, these public servants are leaving before the fate of a bill to extend FORA for two more years is decided in Sacramento.

A former Army base the size of San Francisco, Fort Ord is 25 years into munitions cleanup, blight removal and redevelopment for civilian use. Even the biggest defenders of FORA’s record acknowledge much work remains to be done.

A public announcement of the departures came at a July 13 meeting when the 13 local elected officials comprising the FORA board emerged from closed session.

The announcement centered on Houlemard’s retirement. He wanted to leave by September but would be willing to stay through December under certain conditions: that he be allowed to work remotely three days a week; that he be given 20 additional days of paid leave; and that he receive reimbursement of medical insurance premiums until June 30, 2021. (Houelmard’s 2017 wages and benefits totaled $342,022).

Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker, the board chair, opened up Houlemard’s proposal for discussion. When no one spoke up, Parker said, “it seems the board is a little fatigued at the moment.” The real debate had already happened behind closed doors.

Eventually, some board members did speak and they said they supported Houlemard’s conditions because his experience and knowledge were irreplaceable. “The job still needs to be done on the way out,” said Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby.

Then came Parker’s turn. She was seated right next to Houlemard as she said, in polite bureaucratese, that he’s asking for too much: “As public officials, we have retirement plans that are administered by the state and those are adequate,” Parker said. “I am not comfortable enhancing what is already a good retirement package.” Houlemard remained stoic as he listened.

By a vote of 9-4, the board decided to keep Houlemard on the terms proposed.

He’ll be working without five long-time staffers: his deputy Steve Endsley left to do private consulting; Jonathan Brinkmann, a planner, left to work at Monterey County’s Local Agency Formation Commission; Robert Norris, who served as a principal analyst, retired; Sheri Damon, a risk manager, is now an assistant city attorney in Seaside; and Helen Rodriguez, a financial controller, is down to 10 hours a week.


Need that appliance fixed?  Lawn overgrown? Find all that and more in the Monterey County Weekly  Service Directory, click here.

Time for a haircut? Need a massage? Find all that and more in the Back Cover, click here.

Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers higher education, the military, the environment, public lands and the geographic areas of Seaside, Monterey, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

Become a Member Today


It takes a huge effort for Monterey County Weekly to stay independent and deliver the quality news, arts & entertainment you’ve come to depend on. We’re inviting our readers to join our new membership program, a new way to support independent, local media.

Learn more.

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Curt Chaffee

Are we supposed to weep? These people have epitomized the trough feeding, foot dragging mentality that infects California pols, staff and their hires. Lots of noise and little accomplished. The sweetheart deal mentioned in this article is typical when organizations lose principle for self interest.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.