The Orange County Employees Association this past week formally announced to its members that longtime General Manager Nick Berardino will retire in July after more than four decades with the county’s largest public employees union.

Berardino, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, started as a worker at the county in the Probation department and rose steadily through the union ranks until being appointed OCEA general manager in 2004.

Known for his aggressive and passionate advocacy for rankandfile workers, Berardino will officially retire July 31st.

“I’ve loved every minute of my job — every second of it,” said the 66-year-old Berardino.

“If nothing else, I hope my members feel I brought a voice for their rights and for their jobs and for their family security. If my members feel that, then its all been worth it.”

Berardino said he’ll remain active in local politics, working as a consultant for OCEA among others. He will also continue to serve as Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee to the board of directors of the Orange County Fairgrounds as well as remaining active as a Vice President with the California Labor Federation.

He’s been especially active on veterans’ issues at the fairgrounds, leading  efforts to establish a yearly Veterans Day celebration and jobs fair, and to restore a historical barracks from the old Santa Ana Army Air Base as a future site for a veterans’ museum at the fairgrounds.

Taking over for Berardino will be OCEA’s Assistant General Manager Jennifer Muir, a longtime Orange County Register reporter who joined the union in 2010.

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