Dr. Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since 2001, wants to keep his job awhile longer.
President Bush would do well to grant his wish.
That is not to suggest that Runge has been a perfect administrator, but he has done reasonably well in one of Washington's most challenging balancing acts. Despite NHTSA's small size, its chief sits in one of the capital's hot seats. Everybody, it seems, has passionate opinions about cars and trucks.
So Runge juggles the competing interests of automakers, safety advocacy groups, Congress and his White House bosses. All the while, he must remember his principal mission - saving lives and reducing injuries.
Throughout his tenure, Runge has established priorities and pursued them vigorously, reserving his agency's limited resources for those issues that offer the biggest safety payoff.
For example, Runge is pressing for tougher standards for side-impact protection. But he also devotes considerable time to the bully pulpit, encouraging motorists to use their seat belts and discouraging drunken driving.
Nearly as important are the tasks he has yet to finish. Under Runge, NHTSA undertook a long-overdue study to determine the causes of vehicle crashes. It is impossible to cure today's ills if you use a 25-year-old diagnosis.
Under Runge, NHTSA also launched a review of the federal fuel economy program. Again, it makes no sense to run the nation's most important energy-saving program under rules that reflect the way the world looked in the 1970s. Then, for example, a truck was something used almost exclusively by tradesmen and farmers. Now, it is a family vehicle.
Those are important initiatives, and Runge deserves a chance to complete them before he is replaced by someone with other priorities.