We have no doubt that Brenda Chilton is a sound choice to replace retiring Benton County Auditor Bobbie Gagner.
As the county's chief deputy auditor, Chilton is the best bet for a seamless transition for the department following decades of leadership by Gagner.
It's just a good thing Chilton isn't a Democrat, since it would have kept her from getting the job.
Our archaic system leaves county government's top administrative positions subject to partisan elections. In a case like this, where Gagner resigned partway through a term, the outgoing official's party leaders nominate a replacement.
Actually, the party presents a short list of acceptable replacements, and county commissioners have the final say, at least in theory.
In practice, the process can be openly manipulated to leave commissioners with no real choice. Or it can be divisive, leaving commissioners in the middle of a family feud.
In this case, the Benton County Republican Party selected Chilton as Gagner's worthy successor. Since the rules require three nominees, the party added a couple of its strongest supporters as placeholders on the dance card.
In the end, the party's recommended candidate was the only real choice. County commissioners had the final say, and they followed the party line -- and the logical choice -- and named Chilton.
The process isn't always so well orchestrated.
When the position of Benton County clerk became vacant in 2005, the Benton County Republican Central Committee recommended Byron Pugh for the job.
The county commissioners -- all three were Republicans -- opted to go against their party's wishes and instead selected Josie Delvin for the interim job.
And things got ugly, with intraparty politics clouding the important appointment. Delvin eventually won the seat in her own right, but only after a bitter general election campaign against Pugh.
If political ideology was important to being a good clerk or auditor, all the party shenanigans might make sense. But these are administrative jobs, and party affiliation is irrelevant to the skills required.
In fact, auditors, assessors, coroners, treasurers, sheriffs and prosecuting attorneys are all on the list of administration positions that should be removed from party politics.
These important roles are supposed to serve the residents of the county, regardless of party affiliation. The public servants holding the jobs don't pass laws or approve budgets.
Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor, Assessor Barbara Wagner, Auditor Bobbie Gagner and former Coroner Floyd Johnson were first elected as Democrats and later switched to the GOP.
Same people, doing the same job as before. The only thing that changed was the party affiliation listed on the next election's ballots.
That was convincing evidence that the partisan nature of these jobs is a relic, left over from days when political patronage determined who would get government jobs and contracts. The system doesn't belong in today's society.
The political pretense surrounding Chilton's selection is just the latest demonstration of how outdated it has become.