The choice of John Payne to fill Penny Traina's recently vacated county commission seat was a good one.
Traina left at the end of last year to take a job in the private sector.
Payne, who has a long record of public service, including serving as mayor of East Liverpool in the 1980s and as director of the county election board, was chosen by the Columbiana County Democratic Party to fill the last year of Traina's term.
As mayor, Payne was not afraid to take on controversial issues, and he is generally credited with bringing administrative stability to the elections board.
We wish Payne luck, but we warn him he has large shoes to fill. Traina was a driving force behind many of the county's accomplishments over her tenure. She was a good steward of the county finances and kept things operating smoothly even when austere spending cuts were necessary. Although she was the lone Democrat on the board, she was able to work with her two Republican co-commissioners so well that the party lines always seemed blurred.
As with anyone, Payne's record was not perfect. Republicans accused him of political partisanship for his perceived favoritism and how he handled the controversy over former Congressman Charlie Wilson's petition debacle in 2006 which forced Wilson to run as a write-in candidate. After Wilson was elected to congress he hired Payne as an aide.
At the time, Payne conceded he made some mistakes but denied any suggestion that he placed party loyalty above his public duty. When leaving the elections post he cautioned his successor, "We're all in the political arena, but when it comes to this office, you have to leave your political mantle at the door. You can't wear it in."
We hope Payne will heed his own advice and leave politics at the door of the commissioners' office and continue the non-political cooperation we have come to expect from the board.