Montgomery County is, and has been, a special place to live, to earn a living and to raise a family. It has been a stable community. The diversity evolving in the county has not been an adverse factor. The challenge of the next four years will be to maintain stability during a time of severe fiscal pressure.

It will take continued hard work to do more with less and to choose among competing priorities. For example, it has been difficult to pare down the size of county government without unfair burdens on employees, at a time when law enforcement and transportation personnel have had to be increased sharply. Good management will be needed to protect our AAA bond rating, which holds down costs of roads, libraries, firehouses and other necessary construction.

It is important that the county executive be able to relate well to the governor and the state legislature, to continue to get more bills passed such as our condominium protection law, mass transit financing and the gasoline tax increase to meet transportation needs. This kind of cooperation will be critical when the state apportions future federal cuts in funds and reviews and--we hope--revises several key distribution formulas.

County government has benefited from public-private efforts that include: 1) a nationally praised program to help the working poor become financially self-sufficient; 2) programs to combat drunk driving that have increased the arrest rate for this crime and reduced the death rate from it; and 3) a unified counterattack against the KKK and the Nazis, which the Council of Governments cited as a model for the region.

We must continue to work effectively with private enterprise in Montgomery County. Despite the high interest rates and the downturn in the economy nationally, Montgomery continues to have the highest rate of private investment of any jurisdiction in Maryland; and new private- sector jobs are materializing in sufficient numbers so that our unemployment rate is 50 percent below the national or statewide average.

Whoever wins the election this November will be faced with continuing responsibility to locate county facilities that no neighborhood wants in its midst, including places to dispose of solid waste and facilities for people with special needs. Every tough decision leaves some group distressed. Voters should look for a candidate who will enjoy doing the job and can "suffer the slings and arrows" that are part of it. The joys do outweigh the frustrations.