D.C. MAYOR Vincent C. Gray (D) has fewer than nine months in office remaining, but decisions he makes now will have lasting impact. Such will be the case with his selection of a new inspector general. We hope Mr. Gray uses the opportunity to reinvigorate an office that has failed in its obligation to improve city government.

D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby announced this week that he will retire after nine years in office. Mr. Willoughby’s term was set to expire May 19, and there was no sign that Mr. Gray planned to reappoint him. Indeed, criticism of the office’s handling of some cases and its seeming reluctance to collaborate with the city’s new ethics board fueled speculation about Mr. Willoughby’s departure. Whoever Mr. Gray names will require confirmation by the D.C. Council to a five-year term.

Mr. Willoughby, 64, deserves credit for his office’s part in helping to investigate high-profile scandals, such as the $50 million embezzlement in the Office of Tax and Revenue and the double-dipping by government workers of unemployment benefits. But, increasingly, the office seemed hesitant to take on politically sensitive matters or to draw conclusions about what constituted appropriate behavior, a contrast to the rigor and energy shown by the new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. Questions also arose about whether the best use was being made of the inspector general’s more than 100 employees and what seemed to be a lack of urgency. Perhaps most disappointing has been the office’s overall failure to use its authority and resources to recommend better ways for the government to operate.

A spokesman for Mr. Gray told us that a firm has been hired to conduct a nationwide search for Mr. Willoughby’s replacement. We applaud casting the net wide for the best candidate, but the job’s requirements are so prescriptive that they may work against such an effort. Among the legal requirements are that candidates be lawyers or certified public accountants with seven years of practice, be members in good standing of their professions’ regulatory bodies in the District and have a minimum of seven years of supervisory experience. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who has oversight of the inspector general’s office, said he feared that someone with standout experience as an inspector general in another state couldn’t even be considered.

The qualifications, which resulted from dissatisfaction with an earlier inspector general, should be revisited to determine if they will help secure the right leadership for this critical office.