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Steve Weir's Retirement: A 40-Year Political Career Comes To An End

The Contra Costa County clerk talks about his career in politics from the water board when he was 23 to his 24-year stint as the head of the county elections department

If you've ever attended a rock concert at the Concord Pavilion, you can thank Steve Weir.

If you've ever taken a BART train from Pittsburg or Pleasanton, you can thank Steve Weir.

If you like the way Contra Costa County elections are run, you can also thank Steve Weir.

Now, Weir will be the first to admit he did not accomplish these things by himself. But the Pleasant Hill native played a major role in these milestones and other achievements during his 40-year career in Contra Costa politics.

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Share your thoughts and recollections about Steve Weir's career.

Patch's stories about Weir:
Career and Retirement
Growing up in Pleasant Hill
Politics in Concord
Friday: Life as a Gay Politician
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During those decades, Weir served on a water board, a city council and a transporation commission as well as a field representative to a powerful state legislator and as the person who has overseen almost a quarter-century of Contra Costa elections.

Weir and his partner were the first gay couple to officially be married in the county. He also has a great fondness for the Contra Costa towns with which he has become so well acquainted.

Weir, 63, is retiring March 29. He has a long career to look back on, all of it focused in central Contra Costa County.

The Early Years

Weir grew up in Pleasant Hill, attending Diablo Vista and Strandwood Elementary schools as well as Pleasant Hill Intermediate before graduating from College Park High in 1967.

He was sophomore and junior class president at the high school. He also ran for student body president twice and was defeated. The only other election he ever lost was for Democratic Central Committee in the early 1970s.

Weir attended UC Berkeley, living in a cottage on two acres of land owned by a Berkeley economics professor at Homestead Avenue and Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek.

He graduated with a political science degree, and it didn't take him long to start his political career.

Weir was appointed in 1973 to the board of directors of the Contra Costa Water District. He was 23.

Weir admits he was a bit of a "bull in a china shop." He questioned everything despite his lack of experience. He stayed on that board until 1980.

Meanwhile, in 1975, state Assemblyman Dan Boatwright hired him to be a field representative. He worked for the powerful politician for 10 years.

"Boatwright wanted us to go out and work with constituents. He was very dogged about it," Weir said. "He wanted presence in the community, and I didn't want to sit in an office. I was like a kid in a candy store."

Weir had moved from Pleasant Hill to Concord, and in 1980 he won a seat on the Concord City Council. He stayed on the council until 1989.

In 1982, Weir also was appointed to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He stayed on that board until 1991.

He said his shining accomplishment there was crafting an agreement with San Mateo County officials to support their bid to extend BART to San Francisco International Airport.

Weir and others helped SamTrans get federal funding for its projects. In return, SamTrans handed over $200 million of that money to Contra Costa and Alameda counties to help build BART extensions to Bay Point, Pittsburg, Antioch, Dublin and Pleasanton.

It was a controversial move that angered officials in San Francisco and the Santa Clara Valley.

"I definitely came out of meetings with my tail feathers on fire," Weir said.

But he said it was the right thing to do.

A Government Role

In 1989, Contra Costa County Clerk Jim Olsson died suddenly.

Weir's childhood friend, Ray Sloan, encouraged him to take the job. He said it would be an administrative role at which Weir would excel.

"I told him that sounded like a plan," Weir said.

He won a four-year term in 1990 and won re-election five times without opposition.

He said his biggest accomplishment came after a 1995 election when court challenges to a close ballot measure in the San Ramon Valley highlighted a number of mistakes Weir's office had made.

"I said after that election that we needed to buck up," he said.

The county clerk made a number of policy and organizational changes, all of which are detailed in a four-inch binder in Weir's office.

Weir said he has enjoyed overseeing a government department that provides an important service to citizens (see video with this story).

He also has enjoyed working in Martinez, a town he says is quaint. In particular, he likes the businesses owned by local folks. His favorite restaurant is still Haute Stuff, where he regularly eats lunch.

Weir now hands the reins over to Joseph Canciamilla, who was chosen last month to take over the remainder of Weir's term.

Canciamilla is a homegrown product himself. He was elected to the Pittsburg school board in the late 1970s when he was only 18. He has been a Pittsburg city councilman, a Contra Costa County supervisor and a state assemblyman.

Weir doesn't plan to involve himself much in politics in retirement, at least not initially.

"I took a pledge to be neutral when I became county clerk," he said. "I think I'm going to to keep that pledge, at least for another year."

The retiree plans to fiddle around two vintage cars he owns – a 1966 Cadillac and a 1940 Packard.

Weir also is an avid cyclist, so you may see him on the roads and trails. He might take a shovel to his backyard garden once in awhile, too.

Kim Terry March 20, 2013 at 06:26 PM
I have the greatest respect for Steve Weir and his dedication to Contra Costa County voters. I had the pleasure of meeting him in the 80's when he was one of the judges in the Outstanding Businesswoman contest hosted by the City of Concord. I was one of the finalists, and I distinctly remember how nice he was to me. I was nervous during the question and answer portion, he seemed to sense that and made some kind, reassuring remarks in agreement with a statement I had made. I've never forgotten him.
Diddo Clark April 03, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Thank you, Steve!

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