Fairfax County doesn't have a government, strictly speaking. It has what amounts to an acting government.

The two most powerful appointive positions in the government -- county executive and school superintendent -- are currently held by acting officials.

The county also has an acting personnel director, and of Nov. 4, an acting county attorney.

There are supposed to be three deputy county executives, but only one is serving -- James P. McDonald, who happens to be permanent, except two weeks ago, when he was acting county executive while the real acting county executive, J. Hamilton Lambert, was in Europe.

Some election-minded members of the Board of Supervisors, who theoretically serve part-time, seem undisturbed that the county's nearly 5,000 employes and more than half-billion-dollar budget are in hands of acting and acting-permanent officials.

"The basic reason for this is the upcoming election," said Board Chairman John F. Herrity. "Mr. Lambert doesn't want to become involved in being considered for county executive on a permanent basis until the composition of the new board is known and whether it wants to hire him."

Lambert has been acting county executive since last Nov. 4, when Leonard L. Whorton resigned under pressure from the supervisors, who felt he was not an assertive leader.

Supervisor Warren I. Cikins (D-Mount Vernon) said, "We are in a transition as a government. It's going to be a whole new ballgame, with three new supervisors for certain, and probably more."

Among the new supervisors will be the one from Mount Vernon. Cikins announced earlier this year he will not run for a second full term. Two other incumbents, Alan H. Magazine (D-Mason) and John P. Schacochis (R-Dranesville), also have decided not to run.

Lambert, meanwhile, said the situation has forced changes. "What it's done is forced us to prioritize and put things on the back burner," the acting county executive said.

The supervisors' own agenda reflects a lower level of activity.

The board often busies itself with controversial proposals -- banning smoking in some public places, or requiring that Playboy and similar magazines be hidden behind store counters.

In contrast, the board last Monday had scheduled a public hearing on a proposed amendment "to add clotheslines to the list of permitted accessory uses and . . . to limit the location of accessory structures and uses in front yards . . ."