Question: Who would want to run for sheriff in Alexandria, knowing that the office has been the focus of controversy because of its hiring and firing procedures and that the ex-sheriff was forced to retire because of expenses account irregularities?

Answer: At least five men, all of whom are making the race for different reasons.

Among the crowded field of challengers is Michael E. Norris, an Alexandria Police Department sergeant, who was so anxious to run for sheriff that he said he moved from Fairfax County (where he had been living since 1975) back into Alexandria, sold his Fairfax house "at a loss," and now lives in an apartment.

Norris, a Republican, said he is running because he wants to increase his public service an "upward mobility in the police department is limited."

Norris' challenger in the June 14 GOP primary is Robert J, Sweeney, who said he decided to run for some kind of office five years ago, and chose sheriff because "I am a doer, not a talker."

Democratic candidate Patrick J. Holland said he decided last summer to run for sheriff because "it was time for a change" in the sheriff's office.

Holland's opposition in the Democratic primary is Theodore (Ted) Dodd, who told reporters a year ago he was planning to run for the seat. Recently he said he actually made up his mind at the last minute "because the material I saw jumping in the race didn't seem qualified."

A fifth candidate, Walter T. McDonald, owner of an Alexandria restaurant and a former D.C. policeman, has announced his candicacy as an independent in the Nov. 8 general election. Independents have until primary day to file for office.

The sheriff's race has sparked more interest than any other in Alexandria this year, probably because of the number of candidates. Their posters and signs dot the major streets and residential sections.

Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney William L. Cowhig, a Democrat, has no opposition so far in his bid for re-election. Neither do Democratic state Dels. James M. Thomson and Richard R. G. Hobson.

Part of the interest in the sheriff's race also stem from the fact that there is no incumbent running. Former Sheriff Raymond E. Fogle retired last March when a special investigation uncovered expense account padding among some members of the sheriff's staff.

Some sheriff's employees were forced to repay more than $6,000 to the city and state. Fogle had been sheriff since 1964 and frequently battled with the city over what he said was their interference in the operation of his department.

In Alexandria, the sheriff is responsible for such things as the operation of the jail, transporting prisoners, seving court papers and providing courtroom security. There currently is a staff of 58.

The acting sheriff, Louis Armstead, has signed an agreement putting the sheriff's office under the city personnel system. Fogle had refused to do this.

Of the four candidates in the primary election, Sweeney and Dodd both said they would sign the same agreement putting the sheriff's department personnel under the witywide system. Norris said he would amend the agreement and keep control of his staff, while Holland said he would keep the right to hire and fire his staff and would work with the City Council in setting up a personnel policy.

All four candidates have pledged to reform the expense account procedures that led to Fogle's downfall.

Dodd, 41, was a deputy sheriff for eight years until he was fired by Fogle last year. Dodd then talked to reporters, city officials and the Virginia State Police about the false expense accounts he alleged were filed by some of the department's employees at Fogle's urging.

Dodd, whose campaign signs depict him as a curly-haired sheriff sporting a 10-gallon hat, said he would press for more training programs for deputies. He believes in delegating authority and that he would appoint a chief deputy, a chief court papers server and a chief courtroom security deputy.

Holland, 30, is a real estate investment manager who believes it is an advantage that he has not had any law enforcement experience.

He contends that if Dodd is elected, "We will have four more years of the last 20. I represent the future; he represents the past."

Holland said he plans to have a 90-day staff evaluation if elected, followed by a reorganization of the department. He said that after the evaluation period, "Nobody's guaranteed a job."

Norris, 28, the Alexandria police sergeant, successfully fought through the courts to run for sheriff and be employed as a policeman at the same time.

Norris is the only candidate who stresses crime-fighting goals for the sheriff. He said he believes a remedial counseling program should be established for offenders and their families.

Sweeney, 46, has weved as an unpaid volunteer deputy sheriff on an on-call basis since 1973.

"I wanted to learn the duties of deputies," Sweenet explained. "I've really been doing my homework. If you've never seved in a man's position, how can you hope to give him direction?" He also is a member of the criminal justice advisory council for the Northern Virginia Planning District.