Well, having the power of root implies having the danger of root. A suitable alternative/middleground to the use of the root account is the sudo package. Sudo uses a file (/etc/sudoers) that contains a list of users, groups, and commands. Through this file, you could, for example, give a user full power of root, but require them to re-enter their password. Or, with the (NOPASSWD) option, without re-entering the password. Or you could limit a user to using, say, 'mount'. Or 'ifconfig'. Beware allowing sudo access to an editor: they could edit the sudoers file.
All the user has to do is prefix commands they wish to execute with elevated privileges with the 'sudo ' command. Under gentoo, I can allow a user to install software by giving them sudo access to 'emerge'. The user could then run 'sudo emerge k3b' to install k3b on the system.
Hope this helps!