As Friday night’s meeting of the Humboldt County Planning Commission was drawing to a close, Planning and Building Director John Ford confirmed that he will not be resigning next week to take a job as city manager of Fort Bragg after all.
This revelation from Ford, who gave his notice late last month, appeared to surprise and delight the commissioners.
Planning Commissioner Melanie McCavour had asked Ford whether this would be his last meeting before he departs for his new gig? Ford paused for a couple beats, picked up a stack of papers and tapped them the tabletop before responding.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve been trying to respect the City of Fort Bragg, but since Lost — or, um, Redheaded Blackbelt has already leaked this, um, no.”
For the record, while Redheaded Blackbelt Publisher Kym Kemp was the first local reporter to publish the news, it’s not fair to say she “leaked” it. Earlier in the day the City of Fort Bragg issued a press release, which Kemp published roughly 40 minutes into last night’s meeting.
The press release says Ford changed his mind due to family issues, including the challenge of making his son switch middle schools as well as “his wife’s desire to remain where they are.”
Ford’s expression as he relays this news is inscrutable. Is he chagrined? Despondent? Overjoyed? Hard to tell. But the delight of the commissioners is clear.
Chair Alan Bongio can be heard starting the word “congratulations” before catching himself and changing course. “Well, thank you,” he says.
Commissioner Mike Newman exclaims, simply, “What?”
“You’re staying permanently?” McCavour asks.
“Uh, yeah — well, as permanently as it can be,” Ford replies philosophically.
Amid the ongoing expressions of surprise, Bongio says, “Well, I’ll be the first to tell ya, it’s the best thing for our county.”
Someone — Commissioner Thomas Mulder, perhaps? — expresses sympathy: “I’m sorry, dude.”
Whichever response is appropriate — felicitations or condolences — Ford will remain Humboldt County’s planning and building director for the foreseeable future.
Here’s the press release from the City of Fort Bragg:
John H. Ford of Humboldt County has requested release from his contract recently approved by the Fort Bragg City Council. Mr. Ford cited reasons of conflict in making the transition from his son’s middle school to Fort Bragg and his wife’s desire to remain where they are.
Mr. Ford said, “This would place significant stress on my family and would not allow me to be as socially involved in the Fort Bragg community as the job mandates.”
He goes on to further say, “This is a difficult realization for me. I love the community and was attracted by how cohesively the City Council works and by you as individuals. I am impressed with the staff I met and the impressive list of successful projects they have taken on. From my perspective, Fort Bragg is well run and has a bright future. Fort Bragg deserves a leader not torn between serving the community and needing to make every effort to be supportive of distant immediate family.”
“While we are all disappointed at the loss of Mr. Ford as our next City Manager, we understand the priority of family first and the need to follow priorities in this situation,” said Mayor Bernie Norvell. The City will move onward and forward in a positive direction.