Bobbie Gagner has excelled as a public servant, and like a lot of folks around here, we are sorry to see her go.
The longtime Benton County auditor retires at the year's end.
There will be two parties and open houses for her today, one at the Kennewick Annex from 9 to 11 a.m. and another at the Courthouse in Prosser from 3 to 5 p.m.
They ought to be big affairs.
Gagner's been with the county for 34 years, more than 20 of them as auditor.
She has a spotless record and is recognized around the state as a model of how the auditor's job(s) should be done.
That parenthetic (s) carries a world of meaning.
Gagner is Benton County's top recording and licensing, financial services, vehicle titling and election department officer.
The election department alone is a handful. Keeping two political parties (she's been a member of both, by the way) content is tough enough. Factor in delivering timely election returns to frantic questioning by reporters for radio, television and newspapers, whose assignment editors sit back at the office demanding ever-faster results, and you have the definition of a high-stress job.
She made it look easy, and it always seemed to go smoothly.
The same can be said of the transition of the title of auditor from Gagner to her successor, Brenda Chilton, Benton County's chief deputy auditor.
Gagner is pleased with the choice.
Chilton takes over from Gagner after the first of the year but will face an election campaign within months of taking office.
Gagner said the auditor position is not a job "you can walk into without having some sort of background," in explaining to reporters why she was supporting Chilton.
"Have I been grooming (Chilton) for the position? Yes," Gagner said. "From the time she's been my chief deputy, I've talked to her about how somebody needs to take over when I retire."
She added: "Although I'd like to think I'll be sorely missed in this office, there's an excellent, excellent staff here," she said.
She'd be in a position to know, and not just from the top job looking down.
Benton Commissioner Leo Bowman made the point nicely not very long ago.
He said that Gagner was an elected official who "worked the counter."
In other words, citizens were as likely to get her as anyone else when they went to the auditor's office for routine as well as not-so-routine business.
"That's very unusual in an office as large as hers with a staff as large as hers," Bowman said. "It tells a lot to your staff and your constituents."
She was, for us at the Herald, a ready reference on all kinds of questions on local or statewide issues.
By "ready" we mean that she was always knowledgeable, always cooperative and mindful that the media are always in a hurry.
The new auditor has a challenge to live up to, but she also has a ready model of how the job should be done.
And she has the endorsement and support of the woman she is following in that office.
Benton citizens should consider themselves doubly fortunate.