San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender's days as the county's top lawman, his swan song in a career spanning more than half a century, are numbered following his announcement that he plans to retire as of July 2 because of his wife's health.

I've spent over 50 years of my life in the law enforcement profession -- a profession that has left me with great memories I wouldn't trade for the world," the 73-year-old said in announcing his early retirement Wednesday.

"Thanks to so many of you, the San Diego Sheriff's Department has become a model agency and our lists of accomplishments over the past 14 years are many."

Among his accomplishments, he listed the development of the department's crime lab into a "full service modern entity, which now includes crime scene investigations, fingerprint analysis, firearms analysis, trace evidence, questioned documents, controlled substances, alcohol and ultimately forensic DNA analysis."

Kolender also fought for the sheriff's department to acquire two Bell 205 Medium Lift Type II helicopters following the wildfires of 2003.

He also noted progress made with the department's Crime Analysis Unit, updated with some of the latest in geographic mapping abilities.

Kolender, who spent 13 years as San Diego police chief, was first elected Sheriff in 1994 and has since been re-elected three times. His term expires next year.

Undersheriff Bill Gore will take over from Kolender once he retires, until the county Board of Supervisors appoints an interim replacement or calls a special election to elect someone who would finish out his fourth term. Kolender has endorsed Gore as his permanent replacement.