In 1979, the second time Stephanie Greene co-chaired a mayoral inauguration, she swore she'd never tackle another one unless she had 10 weeks to get it up and running. This year she's doing it again. On seven weeks' notice.

"We started the day after the general election," says Greene. After all, she demurs, "You can't really start planning the inaugural without winning."

Indeed, despite the pressure of the final hours, good manners reign at Sharon Pratt Dixon's inaugural headquarters. The tone in the temporary office space on 15th Street NW (donated by the Bricklayers Union) is set by the two co-chairmen -- Greene, 48, a self-described sometime housewife, perpetual politico and former assistant to Effi Barry; and Jean Catchings, 50, a longtime aide to Dixon at Pepco. The two women share the responsibilities for bringing off every detail of the events of Jan. 2. (A third chairman, Benaree Wiley, Dixon's Boston-based sister, is more or less honorary.)

Greene and Catchings's relationship is a lesson in cooperation. Neither woman demands -- nor has -- absolute authority over decisions. Each listens to what the other has to say, allows the other time to talk. Each counts on comparing notes at the meal they share -- sometimes their only meal -- almost every day, usually a lunch-dinner they squeeze in at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. "We're equally involved in all aspects of this function," says Catchings.

Notexactly the ego-oriented road to political prominence. But that's not their job at the moment.

Dixon contacted each woman during the campaign to see if they would be willing to take on the inauguration. Greene, a familiar figure on the Democratic scene here since the 1978 Barry mayoral campaign, had the political expertise that came with co-chairing two previous inaugurations and serving 3 1/2 years on Effi Barry's staff. (She resigned in 1987 without comment amid rumors of her embarrassment over problems associated with the Barry administration. She still politely but adamantly refuses to discuss the reasons for her departure.)

Until working on the mayoral campaign this year, Greene says, she admired the mayor-elect from afar since they were often on opposing sides in District politics. Greene and her husband, Horace Greene, a psychiatrist who has been working on the Dixon transition team, were college friends of Barry and his first wife, Mary Treadwell, at Fisk University. Greene met Dixon when their children were enrolled in Montessori schools.

"I always had tremendous respect for her," says Greene. "I always wanted Sharon Pratt Dixon to run for us." Once approached by Dixon last spring to help, Greene jumped in. "There was no title discussion or anything like that," she says. "I love politics."

Catchings, a Thomasville, Ga., native whose background is in business education, participated in Pat Harris's mayoral campaign and has worked for Dixon for more than a decade. A slim no-nonsense administrator, she started at Pepco as an office temp and moved on to various public policy positions, including director of consumer affairs. She has also assisted Dixon in some of her political activities. "Working with Sharon, who is the ultimate politician, naturally I've dabbled in politics," she explains.

Neither woman has a particularly confrontational style. Consider a taping at WKYS-FM (93.9) last week with radio personality Bob Hainey about the inauguration. When asked by Hainey, "What is this business with Mr. {John} Wilson?" referring to the incoming City Council chairman's decision to be sworn in separately from the new mayor and an hour earlier, Greene smiled and countered with a sweet-as-you-please, "Bob, what is this business with Mr. Wilson? Only Mr. Wilson can answer that... . It's been blown out of proportion."

Supporting Greene and Catchings, who are unsalaried, are a paid office staff of three, dozens of volunteers, full-time consultants Marilyn Funderburk and Robin Bell, and committee chairmen for each of the separate events.

Trying to stay within a budget of $500,000 (projected to be raised from ticket sales) for its one-day celebration (events for the last Barry inauguration lasted four days), the group has had to do everything from locating a site for the prayer breakfast and sending out more than 20,000 invitations, to deciding on the entertainers for the gala and finding teenagers to monitor the parade route. Not to mention worrying about medical units, emergency entrances and exits, handicapped access and, of course, a final walk-through.

"It has been one long phone call and one long meeting -- with interruptions throughout the day," says Catchings, who with Greene puts in six- or seven-day weeks and often arrives as early as 7 in the morning, rarely finishing before 9 at night. "Without the committees it would be too difficult to undertake in this short a time."

Some initial decisions -- or at least directions -- were set by Dixon. For example, "She wanted the breakfast in Ward 8 and the gala in a central part of the city," says Catchings.

Greene and Catchings have emulated Dixon's style as well. "Moderation and good taste," Greene explains. "Not being extravagant is something Mrs. Dixon is very concerned about. We're not talking beluga caviar. We're talking about the city having a lovely time. And then it's back to business."

But the basic problem-solving has been left to the two co-chairmen. And there has been no time for indecision: When they couldn't find a facility in Ward 8 large enough for the 2,000 people expected at the prayer breakfast, they decided on a rented tent on the football field at Ballou High School. When there was concern about the decibel level of a rap group at the gala interfering with the other musical performers, the rap group's amplification had to be limited.

"You're ready to pull your hair out," says Greene. "But somehow things get resolved."

In balancing the demands of their jobs, Greene and Catchings have had to deal with personal concerns too, the kinds of things that politicians rarely admit to: Like not having time to get ready for Christmas. Like having to don cocktail dresses for evening fund-raisers the first thing in the morning. Like not being able to eat properly. "I've gained 17 pounds since the start of this," says Greene, who confesses she hasn't been to her exercise class since April when she joined the campaign. She's only been to one party since then too. "When I get all into this, it becomes my whole life," she says.

"I call us the fun bunch," says Greene. "By nature the people who are attracted to working in an inauguration like parties, like a parade. The common thread is that people come together in a joyous spirit, and that absorbs the frustrations."