"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."

-- Vince Lombardi

As a columnist, I enjoy interviewing retired folks from all walks of life to learn about their upbringings and ambitions, how they spent their lives, whether they fulfilled their dreams and what they foresee in the years ahead.

One well-known figure who recently announced his retirement is Steve Weir, whose impressive career as a public servant my wife and I have followed since he was first elected to the Concord City Council in 1980. It was the same year the council convened to consider the closure of Clayton Valley Elementary School in Concord that my children attended.

As members of the PTA, my wife and I joined other parents in an all-out effort to keep Clayton Valley open. But our pleas -- backed by countless hours of research -- failed to sway the council.

Steve took time to meet with my wife and me afterward to explain why he voted for closure. And, although we weren't fully accepting of his reasoning, we appreciated his candor and grew to respect him as a community leader and close friend.

People like us who've worked alongside Steve regard him as honest, self-effacing, organized, poised.

He also has a humorous side as he's exhibited on many occasions. You're missing one funny act if you have never seen him decked out with a turban and flowing robe to play the role of Carnac the Magnificent, a character the late Johnny Carson created for his "Tonight Show."

There is a low period in Steve's early life that most people and probably even some of his closest friends don't know. As a student, Steve was a slow learner and struggled in school. A primary source of his problem was his poor reading ability.

Steve might not have attained the success he realized in later life had it not been for his teachers who saw his shortcoming and worked closely with him to correct it.

With their help, Steve immersed himself in his studies and all but quashed his social life. He eventually overcame his problem and went on to complete his education at UC Berkeley.

Steve always wanted to be a public servant. He loved everything about the Delta and was interested in politics and the environmental movement while his peers chose to play ball and while away their time on other recreational pursuits.

At 24, Steve was appointed to fill a vacancy on the county water board in recognition of his many years of volunteer service to the community.

Aspiring to enhance his political career, he later applied for a seat on the Concord City Council and won handily.

Steve kept in excellent physical shape by bicycling everyday and working out at the gym. It was during one of those workouts that he met his future partner John Hemm.

Steve felt an immediate connection to John, and for the first time became aware that something was missing in his life and that he was gay. It was several years after their encounter, however, that John moved in with him.

Steve revealed his sexual orientation to his closest friends but kept the disclosure from the public for fear of the adverse effect it might have on his political career.

In 1989, Steve was encouraged to run for county clerk and won the post. Six years later, he openly announced he was gay. If he had any doubts of the public's reaction, he didn't have to worry. His job was secure.

John and Steve were married in 2008 in an open civil ceremony across from his office in Martinez. As a tribute to Steve's worthiness, he ran one last time for re-election, unopposed in 2010.

Considering the scandal we read nowadays involving public officials, it is certainly refreshing to hear about someone who has dedicated his lifetime to serving the people without so much as an iota of impropriety.

Thanks, Steve, from all the citizens you have faithfully represented over the years. And enjoy your retirement as you and John tootle around in your family's mobile home around this great nation of ours.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.

---