For a woman who prided herself on sticking to her guns, even when facing a roomful of sheriff's deputies who opposed her, Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels was anything but tough on Tuesday.
Her voice broke several times, and she repeatedly dabbed her eyes, as she explained her sorrow at leaving a job she had loved for 12 years.
"It's been a real E-ticket ride," she said of her three terms in office, "and I've enjoyed every bit of it."
Mikels, 60, is not leaving her 4th District supervisor's post by choice. She was ejected by voters in the June primary, placing last among three candidates.
Peter Foy, 50, an insurance broker and political novice, went on to beat out political consultant Jim Dantona in the November general election.
Foy was backed by the county's law enforcement establishment, including the powerful sheriff's deputies union.
Mikels had been considered a strong ally of public safety groups when she took office in 1994 on a platform of increased law enforcement funding. But the deputies union targeted her for defeat several years ago, after she voted against higher pensions for deputies.
In one memorable standoff in 2001, Mikels stood her ground even as the union filled the Board of Supervisors' hearing room with deputies in uniform. The union's president, Glen Kitzmann, lambasted Mikels as unsupportive of public safety and warned that she would be held accountable at her next election.
In characteristic fashion, Mikels stared down Kitzmann and announced that "my integrity and my record says I can't be bought."
She managed to hang on to her seat by a slim margin four years ago when she faced a single challenger. But the split primary vote this year worked against her, along with charges that she was too caustic and out of touch with her constituents in Moorpark and Simi Valley.
On Tuesday, Mikels focused on the people she will miss as she heads back into private life in Simi Valley. She said she and her husband, Mike, who is retired from the Air Force, may spend part of their year in Arizona or Idaho.
"As we say in the Air Force, it's not goodbye, but I'll see you down the road," Mikels said, fighting tears.
Simi Valley Mayor Paul Miller presented Mikels with a proclamation from the city, and board colleagues gave her a gift certificate for a spa day in Ojai.
Several speakers praised her as a public official who stayed true to her principles and stated them candidly.
As if to prove them right, she offered a parting comment: "Those that are going to miss me, I'll miss you too. And those that don't, to heck with you."