Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday selected Bill Rousseau, the county's longtime chief deputy assessor, to replace Janice Atkinson as the county clerk-recorder-assessor and elections chief.

Atkinson, 58, is set to retire in December, two years into her second term in the elected post. She is one of the longest-serving county employees, having started her career in 1972.

Rousseau, 55, lost to Atkinson in the 2006 election for the seat. He was vying for the appointment alongside her chosen successor, Ray Leonard, the department's administrative services officer, and two candidates from outside the county.

Rousseau and Leonard emerged as the favorites after the board interviewed all four candidates in open session Tuesday.

Leonard was seen as the candidate most familiar with all aspects of the office's operation, including elections and the clerk and recorder divisions.

In appointing Rousseau, however, the board gave preference to his expertise in the largest division, property assessments, which he has overseen since 2002, and his longer tenure with the county, going on 29 years.

"I'm very happy," Rousseau said outside the board chambers after his appointment. He is set to assume leadership of the office December 11, a day after Atkinson steps down.

Rousseau pledged to run for a full term come the June 2014 election.

Annual salary for the job is $167,274, plus a benefits package of roughly $80,000. As part of countywide payroll cuts, supervisors said total compensation for the job would be reduced by about 4 percent in March.

The other two candidates interviewed by supervisors Tuesday were Diana Lackey, a former chief deputy assessor of San Diego County and Marvin Hackett, the assistant clerk-recorder in Stanislaus County.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or