From the day they watched him take the oath of office, reporters became used to seeing Dave Watson sitting with his stocking feet propped on his desk, leaning back and talking loudly on the telephone.

Occasionally, he would put one hand to the side of his mouth and bellow "Elaino!" to get the attention of his secretary, Elaine Carter.When he was especially happy, when he got his way on an issue or learned that a political enemy was faltering, he would stand with a devilish grin, his lower lip protruding, and pump his hands wildly as if he were Pancho Villa descending on an unprotected village.

When he didn't get his way he would sit in his office and heap four-letter epithets on his enemies.

Even veterans of Salt Lake County government had never seen anything like Watson, the first Democrat elected to the commission in the 1980s.

From the start, he angered Republican commissioners with his spontaneous criticisms of the way they were running the county. They accused him of leaking information, noting that memos and other information normally kept confidential were suddenly ending up in the hands of reporters.

Commissioner Mike Stewart called Watson "Solar mouth," noting that the freshman commissioner seemed anxious to talk whenever television cameras were around. Reporters soon learned Watson would comment on any subject, including ones that fell under the responsibility of other commissioners.

But Watson came to be more than just a maverick politician with a political agenda. He became a study in contrasts, a man who delighted fellow Democrats with his flamboyance and candor yet made more than one friend and prominent party member nervous.

People who observed Watson during the 16 months he has been in office reacted in different ways when they learned he was arrested Sunday morning and booked for investigation of drunken driving and possessing cocaine.

Some were surprised.

Others said they were expecting something like this to happen sooner or later.

Some party officials said Watson was well known for his "wild side." But the commissioner always seemed anxious to protect his image.

Several months ago, Watson became nervous after learning that a Deseret News reporter had received anonymous calls from a woman who had seen Watson frequenting local bars. He entered the press room at the government center, asking who was spreading the rumors.

"I go into bars occasionally because that's where many of the people I know like to conduct business," he said, pacing the floor. "What am I supposed to do, go around and show everyone that I'm only drinking orange juice?"

He spoke occasionally to reporters about his church service and about his two-year mission to Texas, but he often complained that he felt the commission was run too much like a bishopric.

"You know the cool thing about other counties? They say (four-letter words) all the time," Watson said one afternoon. He had just returned from a convention of county officials in Washington, D.C.

The only conventions he enjoyed were the ones in Washington. He refused to attend most of the others, saying it would be a waste of taxpayer money to go. He was bored with county officials and often seemed bored with his job. He often lamented that he spent most of his days signing papers while bureaucrats made all the difficult decisions.

Watson made no secret of his desire to achieve higher office. In Washington, he could build contacts with politicians who controlled more than mere counties.

He relished his relationship with Gary Hart, the former presidential candidate. Hart had used Watson as his Western States fund-raiser in 1984, and Watson later said he had warned Hart to steer clear of his relationships with other women.

With Hart out of the race, Watson formed a relationship with Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.Y. In a visit to Washington in March, Watson had dinner at the senator's house and was overjoyed when Bradley lent him a book about the Washington power structure, a subject that excited Watson.

He kept the book on his desk, reading from it whenever he had a spare moment.

Watson at times seemed preoccupied with power. He admired people who stood up to him and had little respect for people he perceived to have little ambition or backbone.

He complained bitterly about negative newspaper stories but became disappointed when a publisher sent him an apologetic letter. "He should have said `We will write what we want and you go to hell,"' Watson said.

He treated one administrator with disdain for months because he perceived the administrator had not been forceful enough in a promotion interview.

Yet as a commissioner, Watson has at times been both kind and funny.

His jokes have been the hit of routine commission meetings, causing some Republican administrators to say they find it difficult not to like him. At times he seemed euphoric, joking about almost anything, catching administrators off guard with his irreverence.

There were few jokes being told Monday as Watson came to work teary-eyed and apologetic. He apologized to reporters, to administrators and to county employees, some of whom lined his path to the commission chambers and urged him not to resign.

The man of contrasts may soon be gone forever from the spotlight, and Democrats are left wondering what the effects of Watson's fast-paced, tumultuous tenure will be.