Moderation is a lifetime office because moderators sometimes have to be very unpopular people in order to do their job correctly. We don't want the threat of losing their position to influence the actions thet feel that they need to take.
That's a pretty wild direction to go in, because shouldn't moderators also be accountable to a series of poor decisions? The answer is, they are. As PeterJ explained:
- You can call on moderators to explain any action that they took here, on meta
- You can contact us if you feel that a moderator's actions need immedate review by someone else in charge.
But that's really not enough, because the single most thing that goes wrong is moderators simply finding themselves without enough time to moderate after entering office. Life happens, and we're very respectful of their time, but if you haven't actually moderated in a few months - the system pings the community team. This is (as noted) the most frequent reason for us to replace a moderator.
There's also the Moderator Action Review Process, which moderators on any team can initiate if they feel as if someone else on the team should be removed. This is reserved for extremely serious situations.
Finally, the community team routinely checks into what moderators have been up to recently. If we see something that concerns us, then it's generally treated as an opportunity to help good mods get even better through some additional (personalized) coaching.
The instance that you linked was jarring, but in no way indicative that you don't have a good team. This was a bit of a learning experience for us, and we're going to get better guidance out to mods on how to deal with these particularly difficult situations. There's never any kind of cut-and-dry procedure to follow, if only there were :) But our guidance will improve subsequently.
As for electing a great mod? We show some really good information next to each candidate to help you decide, and there's also a community contributed app that helps you to drill down into each candidate's history and achievements more. I usually vote for people that have a strong history of being polite and helpful, sweeping the floors and participating in discussions about community governance (on sites where I'm eligible to vote).