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Mr. Hereford draws a memorable county career to a close – Heading for Nevada to retire – No state income tax!!

Mike Hereford with his cat Winston

NEWPORT, Or – When Mike Hereford was elected as the first president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555 in 1985, he probably never imagined he would conclude his career 36 years later by retiring as the personnel director for Lincoln County.

     A firm believer in the value of the labor union movement, Hereford had the good fortune five years earlier to meet and ride in a limousine with then President Jimmy Carter, where they spoke of unions and elections. But when Hereford’s presidency with UFCW ended, his career path led him to the management side of the table, first with a 15-year run as the human resources director at Cascade Steel in McMinnville. An interest in arbitration led him to pursue the public sector next, when he was employed by Douglas County, followed by the City of Woodburn, before taking on the role of personnel director in Lincoln County in 2016.

     “I have known the Lincoln County area since I was a kid and my parents would bring us down here to vacation in the summer,” Hereford recalled.

     On July 8, the Oregon native will mark his last day with the county, where he and his staff of four have managed the personnel functions for more than 500 county employees and negotiated with five separate bargaining units. The man with a passion for arbitration actually was able to participate in zero arbitration cases during his tenure here.

     “I would like to think I get credit for that, but we have some good lawyers here and we look at situations and try to establish a clear understanding of whether we screwed up or the employee screwed up or whether both sides are a little culpable,” he commented.

     Hereford said the lack of arbitrations is also a sign of effective communication between management and staff. “If you have a good relationship, you won’t have a lot of arbitrations,” he said.

     The personnel director’s far-reaching background was a real asset to the organization, according to County Counsel Wayne Belmont.

     “One of Mike’s many strengths was his experience on both sides of the negotiation table. He has represented both labor and management in all facets of employment law and that allowed him to bring a unique perspective to our organization and the county personnel office,” Belmont said. “His talents and experience will be sorely missed.” 

     Hereford is quick to share the spotlight with both the people he worked with and county leadership. “I don’t know if I have ever worked with a group of employees that are as mature in their thinking and can see the big picture and work as a team,” he remarked. “Our success is due to their hard work and attention to detail.” 

     Making the transition from labor union president to management representative wasn’t as hard as one might think, according to Hereford. To this day, he is still a big believer in the value of strong trade unions. Although he negotiated with five bargaining units in Lincoln County, his time spent as union president was spent bargaining with as many 30 employers at a time.

     Lincoln County Commission Chair Doug Hunt said Hereford will be sorely missed from the county’s management team.

     “Through his strong leadership and professionalism, Mike improved our hiring process, excelled as an effective and fair negotiator, and worked diligently to improve county employees through staff training, recognition, and his fairmindedness,” Hunt said. “We wish him the very best and his positive impact on our county and its people will not be forgotten.”

     Although Hereford and his wife, Rosie, love Lincoln County, retirement will mean a move to the warmer climes of southern Nevada.

     “I’ve got rust in my joints,” he says, “and I need to dry out. I’ll probably end up baking and be sorry for doing it, but I’m ready to go around in shorts and t-shirts for at least a couple of years.”

     Retirement may include some consulting arbitration work or doing some writing. “I can’t totally unplug,” Hereford said. “After three or four weeks, I’ll be climbing the walls.”

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