THE LAMENTABLE absence of contested races in Virginia doesn't stop with the elections for the House of Delegates. One-fifth of Arlington County's local leadership is up for election tomorrow -- uncontested. Because Arlington staggers the elections of the five-member County Board, only one seat is at stake this year, and the winner is -- or will be -- Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D), who is unopposed. Though voters might well have benefited from the debate that a contest can generate, the board's seat will remain in good hands. Mr. Fisette is a most knowledgeable board member who has served the county responsibly and is well versed in regional issues.

Arlington has been a model of solid, responsive local government for decades, blessed by armies of active community leaders eager to comb budgets, zoning plans and traffic issues. Mr. Fisette reflects that same devotion to detail. He has sought to hold the line on spending but does not rule out voting for a tax increase.

The tradition of sound governance extends to the county schools, which continue at the top of national rankings. The School Board functions smoothly, concentrating on raising achievement for all groups in what has become a highly diverse student body.

There is competition for the seat being vacated by Elaine S. Furlow. Three candidates are seeking the seat, and one stands out: Ed Fendley, president of the Drew Model School PTA.

Mr. Fendley, a career State Department officer with four children in Arlington schools, says he would push for more foreign language instruction in elementary schools. He also wants to strengthen ties between the schools and their communities, noting that about 85 percent of households in the county do not have children in the school system.

Though the school board elections are nonpartisan by Virginia law and candidates run as independents, the major parties usually make endorsements. Mr. Fendley won the endorsement of the County Democratic Committee in a contested election in May. Bill Barker, who has been endorsed by the County Republican Committee, and Cecelia Espenoza, an independent who has been PTA president at Claremont Immersion Elementary School, have run good campaigns, but Mr. Fendley's grasp of systemwide issues makes him the best choice.