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Contra Costa County's new clerk-recorder and registrar of voters Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg greets well-wishers before being officially sworn into office during a noontime lunch event held with staff and invited guests in Martinez, Calif. on Monday, April 1, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County's new elections chief Joe Canciamilla took the oath of office Monday, officially logging the next entry in his already lengthy public service résumé.

Canciamilla, a 57-year-old former state Assemblyman who was elected to his first office at age 17, succeeds Steve Weir, who retired March 29 after serving nearly 24 years in the countywide elected post.

"Steve was always an advocate for this office, and I pledge to the staff that I will do the same," said Canciamilla before a roomful of staff, family, friends and elected officials who gathered at noon in the downtown county elections building now named after Weir. "I intend to uphold the same level of integrity and service that has been a hallmark of this office for years."

Even as a youngster, Canciamilla wanted "to do what was right and what was fair," said Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, a lifelong friend and political ally who conducted the ceremony.

The county Board of Supervisors selected Canciamilla on Feb. 12 to fill the balance of Weir's four-year term from among a field of 18 applicants, including Weir's brother, Pleasant Hill Councilman Jack Weir. To keep the $150,000-a-year job, Canciamilla must win an election in 2014.

The clerk-recorder and registrar of voters is responsible for managing a $14 million annual budget and the 86 employees who handle the county's elections and legal documents such as property deeds. He will also be the county's civil marriage commissioner.


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Canciamilla comes to the job with 35 years of experience holding public office. He was still in school when he won his first election -- to the school board. The mortician and co-owner of the Pittsburg Funeral Chapel served three terms in the Assembly as a Democrat following a single term on the Board of Supervisors. He also served eight years on the Pittsburg City Council.

While in Sacramento, Canciamilla founded the "Mod Squad," which included moderate members of the two major parties who publicly tangled with their leaders. He intended to run for state Senate in 2008 against Mark DeSaulnier -- who ultimately won and was re-elected to a second term in 2012 -- but bowed out after Democratic Party leaders threatened a brutal opposition campaign.

Canciamilla registered as having "no party preference" in 2011.

He has a bachelor's degree in management from Saint Mary's College and a law degree from John F. Kennedy University. His wife, Laura, is an elected member of the Pittsburg School Board.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, politicswithlisav.blogspot.com or Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.