Former Sonoma County Supervisor and Deputy Sheriff Bob Adams, an enterprising and sociable man who left California two decades ago to run bicycle shops in Texas and New Mexico and then market tortilla warmers, has died at age 72.
Adams posed a conservative, affable and mischievous presence on the county governing board during the single term that he represented the First District, from 1981 through 1984. He sought a second term but was defeated by Janet Nicholas, a Sonoma Valley winegrower and turkey breeder.
Bedridden for about the last two years with heart and lung disease, Adams died Feb. 14 at his home in Santa Teresa, N.M., a suburb of El Paso.
"One thing I know," said sister Patricia Troy of Santa Rosa, "my brother loved Sonoma County."
Bob Adams grew up in Chicago and while still a teen joined the Navy and served for a time aboard a submarine. He switched to the Army and became a military policeman stationed in Germany.
He enjoyed being an MP, and following his stint in the service became a policeman in a suburb of Chicago. In 1970, he moved his young family to Sonoma County, where his older brother Ron worked for Friedman Bros., the hardware and home-improvement retailer.
The younger Adams took a job with Friedman's while he looked for an opportunity to resume his career in law enforcement. Early in 1974, he became a Sonoma County deputy sheriff.
"He loved being in the sheriff's office," said one of his sons, Michael Adams of Santa Rosa. "He loved the camaraderie."
But he was working alongside a road early in 1978 when he was hit by a car and injured. He recovered enough to be assigned non-patrol duties.
Adams was on disability leave from the sheriff's office when he launched a run for the southeast-county supervisorial seat vacated by Brian Kahn, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Adams defeated Kathleen Hill, an art distributor and community volunteer.
Adams took his oath of office at the same time as Ernie Carpenter, who would serve four terms representing the west county.
"He was quite a character. I always got along with Bob," said Carpenter. The two operated from different ends of the political spectrum, and Carpenter said he came to sense that his colleague did not take government service sufficiently seriously. "I thought he was a good supervisor, for a while," Carpenter said.
Adams' political capital and prospects were damaged by a car crash that happened one night in 1982 as he was driving toward home in Rincon Valley after a night out with friends in Sonoma Valley. He suffered a broken sternum and arm, and lost six teeth.
A California Highway Patrol report concluded that Adams was intoxicated but could not be charged.
In June of 1984, Adams lost his seat in a primary-election defeat to Nicholas. A short time later he considered running for the Santa Rosa City Council or for sheriff, but in both instances decided against launching campaigns.
More than 20 years ago he met El Paso native Clara Duncan, a high-school teacher. They fell in love and married, and Adams subsequently agreed to move to Texas.
There, the couple purchased and ran three Schwinn bicycle shops. After selling them, the Adamses began producing and distributing Keep 'em Hot tortilla warmers.