MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa elections chief Steve Weir retires Friday after 24 years with nary a challenger in six elections.

The statistic satisfies Weir. It means voters were happy with his performance and it freed up cash for his bucket list.

Weir considered it inappropriate, as the countywide clerk-recorder and registrar of voters, to take contributions from other elected officials, political consultants or vendors. He expected to pay for his campaigns out of his own pocket. But no opponents meant no campaigns, and no postelection bills.

So after the 2010 filing period closed Weir bought his dream bicycle, an $8,000 silver Italian beauty that carried him across the finish line in the Death Ride -- a grueling 129-mile trek over five mountain passes and an elevation gain equal to nearly four trips up Mount Diablo.

Contra Costa County’s registrar of voters and clerk-recorder Steve Weir reacts to a special presentation made in his honor at the Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County's registrar of voters and clerk-recorder Steve Weir reacts to a special presentation made in his honor at the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

As Weir describes it, life is the ultimate Death Ride.

"When you work in the trenches, you have to try and keep your moral compass, stay as honest as humanly possible, do your job and once in a while you will get tested," the 63-year-old Weir said from his office in the downtown Martinez elections office, which was recently named after him. "There will be a fire, a takeover of your office and people will tell you you can't do it. That's when you have a chance to move the ball."

During his four decades in public office, Weir scored multiple times:

  • Walkers and cyclists on the popular Central Contra Costa Canal Trail can thank Weir, who championed the project when he sat on the Contra Costa Water District board.

  • Folks who take BART from Pittsburg or the Tri-Valley to the San Francisco Airport owe the convenience, in part, to Weir, who helped broker a seemingly unattainable regional financing deal when he served on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

  • Weir embraced national publicity when he married his longtime partner, John Hemm, in June 2008, sacrificing the couple's privacy to help pave the way for others. Earlier, he publicly came out as gay when former Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a bill that permitted same-sex couples to visit each other in the hospital.

  • Residents who cast their votes by mail enjoy far higher odds that their ballots will count after Weir reformed a signature verification process that used to reject hundreds of ballots. He also ironed wrinkled ballots that jammed in the scanners and dried soggy ones with a hair dryer.

    "I want to recognize you for your generational leadership," Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho told Weir when the county recently honored him. She met Weir as a child through her father, the late Sen. John A. Nejedly. "You have really set a hallmark for all of us to aspire to."

    All this policy talk makes Weir sound like a dull boy. Not true.

    At heart, the lanky, mustached public servant with an impish smile is a big kid with a generous spirit and a gift for seeing the sunny side of life, his friends and family say.

    "I credit Steve's mom," said friend Nora Pastrick, of Concord. "She had an incredibly positive attitude and set a great example."

    Weir grew up the youngest of five kids in a close-knit, blue-collar family in a suburban Pleasant Hill neighborhood.

    His father, James Weir Sr., was a woodworker who built boats, houses and many other things. His mother, Lillian, was an artist and homemaker. The family didn't have much money but the Depression and World War II had taught them to enjoy one another, said Weir's oldest brother, Pleasant Hill Councilman Jack Weir.

    Contra Costa County’s registrar of voters and clerk-recorder Steve Weir has his photo taken with supervisors (from left) Mary Piepho, Karen Mitchoff,
    Contra Costa County's registrar of voters and clerk-recorder Steve Weir has his photo taken with supervisors (from left) Mary Piepho, Karen Mitchoff, Federal Glover, Weir, John Gioia and Candace Andersen (hidden), following a special presentation made in his honor at the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. (Dan Honda/Staff)

    "When the family got together, it didn't take much to get everyone joking and having a good time," Jack Weir said. "Steve is always looking for an opportunity to see the bright side even if the situation is messy and troubling."

    What does a clerk-recorder do for fun?

    Weir loves classic cars, especially his gangster-style, blue 1940 Packard 120. (The violin case in the back seat is empty.) He dresses in a bejeweled satin costume -- Hemm designed it -- and delivers a truly funny rendition of Johnny Carson's "Carnac The Magnificent."

    He bicycles up Mount Diablo with the Old Farts Cycling Club like a 30-year-old.

    And Weir has a huge soft spot for animals, bringing home strays such as Hector, the turtle hatchling he plucked from Alhambra Creek. He volunteered at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum as a young man, where he helped retired Contra Costa Times pets and wildlife columnist Gary Bogue care for injured hawks and orphaned mountain lion cubs.

    "Steve was very good at cleaning poop out of bird cages," Bogue joked. "It obviously prepared him well for working in politics."

    Weir rescues injured humans, too. He once took in a homeless and "thoroughly ornery" woman who was being robbed of her small monthly income, he said. It took 18 months to find her permanent housing.

    "Most people wouldn't put themselves out like that," said Mike Pastrick, a former Concord mayor who ran Weir's first campaign. "He would also help seniors who needed home repairs or yardwork."

    As Weir approaches his last day in office, most people ask what he will do next.

    He says he will volunteer. He'd like to go to Africa on a safari. There's a wood carving he put aside in the 1970s. And he will defend his lawn as the greenest on the street.

    Mostly, he will spend time with the love of his life.

    Hemm, too, is counting the days.

    "I used to call and ask, 'When are you coming home?'" Hemm said. "I'm waiting for him to come and stay home."

    Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773.

    Steve weir
    Age: 63
    Hometown: Concord
    Professional background: Contra Costa County clerk-recorder and registrar of voters, 1989 to 2013; California Association of Clerks and Election Officials president, 2006 to 2008; U.S. Election Assistance Commission standards board, 2002; Metropolitan Transportation Commission, 1982 to 1993; Concord City Council and mayor, 1980 to 1989; Contra Costa Water District board, 1973 to 1980; field office staff member to the late Assemblyman and Sen. Daniel Boatwright, 1975 to 1985.
    Personal background: Married partner of 23 years, John Hemm, in June 2008. Bachelor of arts degree in political science, UC Berkeley, 1971. Graduated from College Park High School in Pleasant Hill in 1967. Godfather and uncle. Rotary Club member since 1975.