Gus Douglass is the only agriculture commissioner most West Virginians have ever known. Voters first elected him in 1964, and re-elected him to his 11th term in 2008.
But Douglass, 85, is retiring. Voters have an opportunity to give the Department of Agriculture a fresh look, which many people think it needs.
The Republican candidate is Kent Leonhardt of Monongalia County. Because he is unopposed in the primary, voters don't know much about him yet.
On the Democratic side, two candidates are current employees of the department, and one is a former employee.
Douglass has endorsed assistant commissioner Steve Miller. Deputy commissioner Bob Tabb, a four-term former delegate, also is running.
Joe Messineo, who spent five years with the department as field supervisor for animal health, has an impressive history with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Veterinary and Plant Quarantine Services and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Kanawha County's Sally Shepherd also is running. Like the other candidates, she is bursting with ideas.
The Daily Mail endorses state Sen. Walt Helmick, the candidate far enough removed to make a fresh assessment of how effectively the department spends its $64 million budget and how it should change.
Helmick has served in the state Senate for 22 years, eight years of that as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has worked with the department on many issues.
Helmick is uniquely qualified to take a thoroughgoing and independent look at how the department operates.
That is needed.