The resignation this week of David Watson from the Salt Lake County Commission brings to a close a painful episode for the community and for Watson himself. His departure is the right thing to do because it allows him to get on with rebuilding his life.

The two remaining commissioners will appoint a replacement for the final few months of Watson's term of office - choosing from a list submitted by the County Democratic Central Committee. That process should move quickly and be as free of political bias as possible.Watson, a combative personality and the first Democrat elected to the County Commission in a decade, was considered a promising newcomer on the political scene until he was arrested last May 15 for drunken driving and possession of drug paraphernalia and cocaine.

He later pleaded guilty, was fined a total of $1,400, given a 60-day suspended jail sentence, and ordered to do community service.

The unfortunate incident shattered Watson's political career and caused his withdrawal from this fall's re-election race. He said at the time, however, that he would not resign because he needed the job to pay his bills and support his family.

Apparently he has found other employment. He said in announcing his resignation that serving as county commissioner was a painful daily reminder of his mistake and that his effectiveness was undermined, even though the public furor over his arrest had faded.

Watson is to be commended for openly admitting his mistakes and taking his punishment and for appearing to be genuinely chastened and contrite. But the process of healing and repairing the damage to his family and personal life is better served out of the public eye.

We wish Watson well as he becomes a private citizen who will be working to overcome an unhappy incident that tarnished his hopes and ambitions.