Roy Wilson, 74, who had recently ended a long career as a Riverside County supervisor because of illness, died Wednesday at his Palm Desert home.
A cause of death was not released.
Since 1994, Wilson had represented a large district that includes Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley and extends to the Arizona border.
As a Republican in a nonpartisan seat, Wilson championed public safety, led the way in highway improvements as population boomed in the area and fought for better living conditions for migrant farmworkers, according to a county news release.
The father of five also worked to improve air quality, protect the desert and ensure that food programs and shelter programs were widely available, the Desert Sun reported Thursday.
Before becoming a supervisor, Wilson spent more than 33 years as an administrator and journalism professor at Cal State Stanislaus and at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert.
He also had been a planning commissioner and City Council member in Palm Desert.