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FILE PHOTO--Outgoing Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf discusses his career in law enforcement during an interview in his office in Martinez , Calif. Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

In a truly sad turn of events, retired Contra Costa Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

He's exploring treatment options but the prognosis is grim for this type of cancer, the 69-year-old East Bay native told friends and colleagues in a touching and dignified email last week.

"While rather morbid, this may be the only good news," Rupf wrote in his trademark wry tone. "When you buy this brand (of cancer,) you move rather quickly from check in to check out."

He retired as sheriff two years ago after serving nearly two decades in the top post and more than 40 years in the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. Born in Oakland and raised in Concord, he started with the agency in 1965 after a four-year stint in the U.S. Marines.

"Some will say that I should have retired earlier and enjoyed the good life," Rupf wrote. "I say, 'Poppycock, my life could not have been any better.' Be it the Marine Corps., Office of the Sheriff, going toe-to-toe with a real labor leader or having a beer at the slop chute with an old-school reporter, you made my list of those who made my life one of few regrets." (Read the entire email at Political Blotter at IBABuzz.com/politics.)

The news of his illness spread quickly throughout the county and the state, where Rupf, the former president of the California State Sheriffs' Association, is highly regarded in the law enforcement community.


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Rupf's diagnosis also comes just weeks after the death of the sheriff's close friend and the late Contra Costa Supervisor Gayle Uilkema of Lafayette, who died in May from ovarian cancer.

One reader called Rupf her "hero." Another commented, "He is one of the good guys."

Indeed, he is a good guy. Yes, Rupf was an elected official and as a reporter, I kept my eye on him. He wasn't perfect and he would be the first to tell you where he should have done better.

But as I got to know the sheriff over the years, I grew very fond of him.

Why? He has many fine attributes, of course.

He is devastatingly tall, handsome and charming. He has a wicked sense of humor. He possesses a killer storytelling instinct. His personal integrity is unparalleled.

But it is his genuinely kind heart that sticks with me.

There are many examples but personally speaking, when my son went into law enforcement, the sheriff offered me advice and moral support.

He always remembers to ask about my son's career in the California Highway Patrol, although he can't resist joking that when the younger man is ready to do some real police work, he should check out the sheriff's office. (Rupf tested with CHP as a young man but Contra Costa County called him first.)

From my family to yours, Warren, we wish you fair winds and following seas as you chart your way along this hazardous route.

by the numbers: California has its Field Poll and now, Contra Costa has its own measure of public opinion.

Shell, Tesoro and Phillips 66 recently debuted the Contra Costa Poll, a twice-yearly or more telephone survey of registered Contra Costa voters on general issues. Intended as a community service, it contains no refinery-specific questions.

Among the results:

  • Contra Costans gave California a thumbs down, with 66 percent saying the state is on the wrong track, while only 19 percent are satisfied. The numbers nearly match those of the most recent Field Poll, which found that 64 percent of voters statewide take a dim view of the state's trajectory and 26 percent say it is all good.

  • Local voters are relatively less pessimistic about the county, with 42 percent saying Contra Costa is on the wrong track compared with 38 percent who are happy.

  • Contra Costans really like their hometowns, though. Nearly two thirds of respondents say their own communities are headed in the right direction.

  • Education and school funding topped the list of concerns, followed by the economy and unemployment.

  • Contra Costans, by a margin of 65 percent to 30 percent, support Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure on the November ballot that asks voters to hike income taxes on those earning $250,000 a year or more, plus boost the state sales tax for four years.

    EMC Research interviewed 400 voters in mid-May and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. Read the complete poll at http://db.tt/wXgG3zLV.

    GOT POLITICS? If you have a hankering to run for public office, a virtual smorgasbord of choices await you on city councils, school and special district boards. The candidate filing period runs July 16-Aug. 10. Check out the Contra Costa and Alameda County lists of seats at the Political Blotter or IBABuzz.com/politics.

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