P. David Searles of McLean has been named senior deputy of a three-member management team appointed last week as part of a reorganization move by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Searles, 45, will be the new deputy chairman for policy and planning. He has been with NEA since July, 1976, as its third-ranking officer. In his new post, Searles also will be called on to serve as acting chairman, standing in for the chairman of the Endowment, Livingston L. Biddle, Jr.

"My position adds to what I've already been doing, additional responsibilities for program development, activity with other federal agencies and international efforts," Searles said. "I will also be much more heavily involved in representing the Endowment than I have in the past. One person can't do it like it should be done anymore."

Searles said he already has begun his new duties, although the two other deputy chairmen probably will not begin work until Feb. 1. They are Mary Ann Tighe, special arts advisor to Vice President and Mrs Mondale, and L. James Edgy, Jr., executive director of the Ohio arts council. Each deputy earns $47,500 a year.

Searles said he expects the Endowment's new administration to continue past policies.

"NEA's purposes have remained constant since its founding in 1965, but our areas of concentration and where we put the money will change. We'll continue to seek a high quality of arts activities but put greater emphasis on combining quality with increased accessibility and organizational unity.

Searles said the Endowment is aware of the need for unity among the arts communities and their constituencies, working together so there would be no splintering of effectiveness.

"The arts are probably the biggest growth industry in this country," he said, "with a larger number of people involved in more places than ever before."

The duties of the three deputy chairman had been carried out by the vice chairman of the Endowment. However, because of expanding needs to make the Endowment more responsive to the arts community, Biddle decided to redistribute those duties among three deputies.

Searles estimated that during his 1 1/2 years with the Endowment the budget has increased 30 to 40 per cent and the staff has increased about 10 per cent.

From the current operating budget, he said, each state was awarded a block grant of about $235,000. Block grants are used primarily for programs administered by state governments.

In addition, the Endowment has 120 separate funding categories, used to fund special projects not covered by the block grants, Searles said, and any state can compete for those additional funds.

A third money source, approved by Congress and recently announced for use in fiscal 1978, amounts to $1.8 million "for use by smaller groups in each state."

"This is in addition to the block grant," he said "with no strings attached, and is an example of our increased willingness to have states share money and have greater say in how it's spent."

Searles admits, however, that states, arts groups and individuals seeking funds from the Endowment often find it hard to wade through often-overlapping sources of funds, before finding the category that would best meet their needs.

"We hope to substantially reduce the number of categories and make it simple for everyone to apply," he said. One plan Searles supports is Tighe's announced goal of "simplifying language and ways of writing guidelines" now used by applicants and criticized by many of them.

The Carter administration, Searles said, "has not taken a position yet" on another proposal: a tax form check-off whereby citizens could make donations to the arts.

"About 150 to 200 Congressmen have announced support of a recently introduced bill which would allow such contributions," Searles said. "This wouldn't be additional tax money spent on the arts, but a sum deducted, for example, from a citizen's tax refund at his request.

"The important thing about this proposal is that hearings held on this bill will give tremendous exposure to the needs of the arts. I can personally say it would be a great way to show the responsibility private citizens have in this country to support the arts."

Searles was asked to respond to a recently released survey by the American Council for the Arts that ranked Virginia 47th in state funding for the arts.The survey listed Virginia's current arts budget of $278,645, noting that it was less than six cents per resident.

"Virginia has no business being ranked 47th in the nation," Searles said. "This state has a population that appreciates and is involved in the arts and deserves more funding. There certainly is considerable room for improvement."

Searles moved to Washington in 1973 when he became a Peace Corpos administrator. He served as director for the Philippines and regional director for North Africa, Near East, Asia and the Pacific, before being named deputy director of the Peace Corps in 1975.

Before his government works, Searles was a business executive and taught American history in high school. He received bachelor's and master's degree in American history from Yale University.

Searles is a native of Bangor, Maine, "where in the '30s and '40s the arts were not part of the city's existence. My first arts experience came in college and abroad. What I marvel at is my children, who consider arts a natural part of life. It's a very healthy thing to have happening."

He said his family "far excels me in the arts. All the talent comes from my wife Mary's side. She's a musician and a weaver. I'm a consumer, not a practioner myself."

The Searleses have two sons, Richard, 19 and John, 17. "Richard is a student of classical guitar at North Carolina School of the Arts. John is interested in the theater and wants to be an actor. He's also a ballet dancer and active in drama at Langley High School."

A daughter, Rachel, 20, recently transferred from a heritage arts curriculum at Salem College in West Virginia and will enter George Washington University this semester.

The family belongs to the McLean Ballet Company, of which John is a member, the McLean Orchestra and the Washington Guitar Society.

When he's not working, Searles says his "greatest single personal enjoyment is my vegetable garden. When I'm not gardening or fishing, I bake all the family's bread, basically whole wheat and French."

Then, too, "I have my cookbooks," he said, referring to how he learns his culinary art. "And I'm having a new kitchen put in that will make my life complete."