BETTY ANN KRAHNKE is stepping down from the Montgomery County Council under protest -- her own. She has done everything in her power to continue serving her constituents, but that power has been cruelly diminished by Lou Gehrig's disease. As she has done throughout her years of conscientious service, Mrs. Krahnke reached her decision only after thoroughly assessing the situation and openly discussing it with all concerned. She also timed her announcement so the nominees seeking to succeed her will be on the ballot for the March 7 primaries. And she has vowed to keep on representing her constituents until a new member takes over.

When Mrs. Krahnke ran for the District 1 seat in 1990, the elections for a then newly constituted and larger council offered voters opportunities to recruit fresh competence. Mrs. Krahnke offered something more: good reason to break a 20-year Democratic lock on the council.

A member of the Mac Mathias-Gil Gude-Connie Morella school of Montgomery Republican civic service, she brought to local government a strong grasp of county issues and council process stemming from her intelligent service on the planning board and various school and countywide organizations. That expertise had produced strong ties with voters beyond her district -- links that have multiplied ever since.

Though illness has sapped some of the exceptional energy Mrs. Krahnke brought to her duties over the years, the people of Montgomery can count on her to work in her traditional way -- that is, meticulously and unselfishly and with grace -- as she completes her service. With thanks for what she has accomplished, her friends throughout the region wish her well.