Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster said farewell Tuesday to county employees and constituents from the First District, calling his nearly 20 years on the Board of Supervisors "a great privilege."
"This has been the center of my life," Buster said. "It's been an exciting thing for me."
The First District includes Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Lakeland Village and other nearby jurisdictions.
In the board's final meeting of 2012, Buster was recognized with a proclamation praising his service and verbal tributes from colleagues and the heads of several county agencies.
"It's a sad day for all of us," said board Chairman John Tavaglione. "I'm truly going to miss you because of your thoughtful debate."
Buster lost his bid for re-election on Nov. 6 to then-Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, who will be sworn into office Jan. 8.
Buster, who has served on the board since 1993, said he had been involved in 18 political campaigns since 1977 and predicted "more around the corner."
Buster marveled at the changes that have taken place in his native county over the last several decades.
"Our board meetings have just been remarkable," Buster said.
"We've all had issues we've seized on and pushed hard for. It takes that kind of initiative and action, sometimes tough action ... (and) that has really propelled this county forward."
Buster acknowledged that the board had often been a forum for heated debate and thrashing out of disagreements.
"Sometimes sparks fly," Buster said. "But on the major issues of the day, more often than not, we find ourselves united. It's been a great privilege for me to be here."
Buster hoped the county would continue to be a "catalyst to make things happen" and felt confident it would continue to "forge ahead in a positive direction."
Buster was among the most active proponents of the county's pension overhaul, which reduced future costs by several hundred million dollars. He clashed with public employee unions over pay and benefits in the last several years, as the county attempted to adjust to a shrinking economy.
Both the Riverside Sheriffs' Association and the Deputy District Attorneys' Association opposed him in the November election.
Buster broke with colleagues on a number of issues, including over Proposition 23 in 2010. The measure called for a temporary suspension of the Global Warming Solutions Act, a 2006 law that critics say will significantly raise electricity rates and the cost of doing business in California because of onerous regulations intended to reduce the state's "carbon footprint."
Supporters argue the law will greatly improve air quality.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution backing the measure, with Buster casting the dissenting vote.
Proposition 23 was rejected by voters.