Some 20 years after its adoption by the voters, Clatsop County home rule government remains a work in progress. The pending departure of County Manager Scott Derickson is a reminder of how much we have yet to learn about what the county's decision-making requires.

This year and 2007 have contained many dark moments for county government. One commissioner misunderstood his role, using it to enhance his private business. That commissioner also stacked the deck of the county planning commission so that it could give the prospective Bradwood liquefied natural gas terminal a green light. That commissioner was recalled by a landslide vote.

Commission Chairman Richard Lee was not alone in doing damage to the commission. Three of his soulmates remain on the commission, but one of those might well be defeated in the November election.

Any elected council or commission will have ups and downs as honorable and competent or dishonorable and incompetent persons are elected to office.

The county administrator is essential to balance those ups and downs. If Scott Derickson exhibited a shortcoming, it was his unwillingness to be a stabilizing influence during the torment of 2007-2008. By saying nothing in public to restrain the lynch mob, Derickson enabled a commission chairman and his gang who wanted to pick a fight with the district attorney - a certifiably stupid, enormously destabilizing and costly adventure.

Commission Chair Patricia Roberts was wise to choose the newest commissioner, John Raichl, to help draft a timeline for the selection process. It will be important for Commissioner-elect Dirk Rohne to be part of this process. If Commissioner Roberts is defeated in nine weeks, her successor must be part of the process.

Clatsop County would always have a lot at stake in the hiring of its top government administrator. That is especially so this year, with a debacle fresh in our memories.