When Fairfax County Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) held a public forum last month with finalists for a school board vacancy, one citizen asked the candidates if they would have enough time to devote to school matters.

To no one's surprise, each candidate said they would.

After other candidates said they had even discussed the matter with their spouses and were assured that the spouses would fully cooperate, Eltse Carter, chairman of the Humanities Department at the Northern Virginia Community College, brought down the house with her reply:

"Well, I have only my chihauahua to ask, and he said it's all right as long as he can come to meetings and sit in the car.

"As long as it's not too hot," she added quickly, for the benefit of dog-lovers in the audience.

Presumably, Carter broke the news to her dog last weekend, when she became the third new school board member appointed this summer.

Each of the three new appointees -- Carmin Caputo from Centreville, Gerald Fill from Mount Vernon and Carter from Annandale -- brings special expertise to the board.

Caputo, appointed in June, has been active in numerous citizens' committees set up by the county supervisors.

"I guess if I have a strong suit, it would be my years of working with the supervisors and the county staff," Caputo says.

A strong believer in teamwork, Caputo says he supports Superintendent L. Linton Deck's approach to team management.

Fill, who works with the federal Office of Management and Budget, brings with him financial expertise and an understanding of the complexities of intergovernmental relationships.

When members were asked to sign up for school board committees last week, Fill immediately signed on to the board's budget committee.

The latest appointment, of Carter, fills out the 10-member board. Several observers said earlier this week that Carter's appointment was "refreshing."

Plainly, there were more politically active candidates in the running, but Carter's educational background helped her win out over others with strong ties to the Democratic Party.

A Florida native, Carter was educated at Florida State University and George Washington University and was a John Hay Fellow at Yale in 1962.

Carter says one advantage she brings to the job is her ability to evaluate the success of the Fairfax County Schools through the students she teaches in her English classes at the Northern Virginia Community College. t

"That's about all we get -- Fairfax students," Carter says.

She also is a former county teacher who understands very well the difficulties of women who try to succeed in public high school positions. Carter said she was a summertime principal in the mid-1960s because regular-term principalships were not open to women at that time.

Today, only one Fairfax high school principal out of 23 is a woman.

Carter has strongly supported neighborhood schools, a stand very much in line with her Annandale constituents, who face the possibility of nearby schools closing next year.

And why did she seek a seat on the school board?

"I've never been in a policy-making position in my life," Carter says. "And I don't need the job -- but something inside me needs the job.

"The school business is the business of my life."