FOR ALL ITS legendary civic second-guessing and issue anxiety, Montgomery County continues to enjoy exceptional local government under leaders who receive national recognition. County Executive Sidney Kramer is an example of this sort of management and he deserves reelection.

So successful is Mr. Kramer's consensus building style that it almost won him an unopposed run for his party's nomination. But late in the campaign, some groups that believe the county executive is responsible for what they dislike in the way of development in the county rallied around longtime council member Neal Potter. Still other organizations that formed around calls for changes in property tax collection also lined up behind Mr. Potter.

Mr. Potter's entry into the race has sharpened the campaign debate, not only by focusing it on important issues but also by shedding light on the fact that development guidelines in Montgomery were determined before Mr. Kramer took office -- and by a county council that in many of its decisions had the approval of Mr. Potter. As a member of the council, Mr. Potter has enjoyed the respect of voters for his independent voice and studied approach. His has been the kind of maverick role that can serve a legislative body well but does not always make for a decisive leader able to negotiate with the state legislature, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the federal government. Mr. Potter's concentration on development issues and past decisions has made his campaign almost a single-issue affair; he appears to have few other serious quarrels with Mr. Kramer. This may help to explain why such county stalwarts as former county executive Charles Gilchrist and former Rep. Michael Barnes have endorsed his opponent.

Although Montgomery remains a relatively prosperous county, Mr. Kramer has pointed out that federal and state fiscal changes may have significant effects on the local economy in fields ranging from revenues to government services. "There is no reason to panic or reach for radical ideas," he has observed, "or to scrap our protections against developments." Mr. Kramer has kept Montgomery on an even keel, and voters who recognize and appreciate it will help him to keep doing so.