What are people in Maryland looking forward to in 1981? What are they dreading? What are their plans for New Year's eve and New Year's day? Washington Post Staff Writers Kathryn Tolbert and Leon Wynter asked public officials and folks on the street about their views of 1981. Gilchrist

County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist thinks his administration is "under a good head of steam" toward cutting the size and cost of local government. "During the next two years, we hope to see some achievements toward a wider choice of housing, controlling the problem of condominium conversion and increasing the housing supply." Gilchrist said that the liquor department investigation made 1980 a difficult year, but "we've learned a lot from it. We'll be stronger for it. I'm hopeful that soon the various people looking into it will complete their work. Then we can have a constructive review of the whole philosophy of our participation in the operation." 'Very Optimistic'

Montgomery County and 1980 were both very good to Gordon Merrick, a 31-year-old cabinet maker who moved to Rockville from Kennebunkport, Me. "The type of work I do is expensive," he explained, and noted that people in Maine couldn't afford him. But his sales in suburban Maryland for nine months were equal to four years of sales in Maine.

"I'm very optimistic for my business in 1981," he said. Budget Woes

Local politicians have budgets on their minds. "It's going to be a very difficult year for the county fiscally," said County Council president Ruth Spector."With inflation and the lack of state and federal funds, we're going to be cutting into services in Montgomery County that we've never had to before." Spector said that 1980 was a good year for her personally, but that "as far as world events, the national election, the hostages, the economy -- it's all depressing. But I'm practical and pragmatic and you have to deal with what you have." 'Just Married'

Twenty-four-year-old Craig Davis of Gaithersburg is a happy man. "I'm not worried about anything. I just got married two weeks ago." He and his friend, fellow dry wall mechanic Kerry Rosfeld, 26, of Gaithersburg -- "I just got married too" -- are driving to Atlantic City today to start the New Year with a bit of luck, they hope. "We'll be back the same night -- unless we win." 'Little Worse'

Lawyer Bob Winters, 49, of Kensington, says his friends all call him a pessimist. "But I enjoy seeing the New Year start. It's another year to look forward to." What does he predict? "I think the economy's going to get a little worse and everything connected with it will get a little worse. Things just won't be as good." Like 1980

Royce Hanson looks at years in terms of growth pressure. The head of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, he sees 1981 as being a lot like 1980. "From every indication we have now, the housing market will be pretty slow. The non-housing market and industry will move apace. I don't expect the pressure for growth in the county to be very intense." But the commission has another busy year ahead, with three major master plans underway. The eastern Montgomery County master plan is ready for council action and staff is working on plans for Gaithersburg and Damascus.

Is he an optimist? "Incurably." 'Worried'

Among the worriers is Edwin Young, 37, of Gaithersburg. "I'm worried about the economy, hostages, gasoline, and I've got a daughter going into junior high school so I'm worried about drugs." Crime Rates

Chief of Police Bernard J. Crooke looks at years in terms of crime rates. "This is the fifth year of increase in major crimes. In 1979 there was a 16.8 percent increase in major crimes over 1978. This year we're projecting a 6 percent increase. There's been an alarming increase in robberies -- a phenomenal increase in Montgomery County, and an alarming increase in residential burglaries. Crime is not just a city issue. It's a fact of life here in Montgomery County."

Still, he says, "I'm optimistic that things can be handled." 'Better Year'

"I don't know why I'm optimistic, but I think it will be a better year," said Pat Arrington, 46, of Kensington. Like so many others for whome Christmas was the most recent reminder of the inflation rate, she sees New Year's as only the start of another round. "Being a single parent with a small child, clothing, food, day care -- the normal day to day things really hit hard." 'No Concerns'

"I'm just existing day by day until I get the five kids to a place where I can get a breather," said Thelma Ghahhari, 45, of Silver Spring. "I have no concerns, I really have no concerns. If you think about the concerns of tomorrow, you'll never get through the day." Her children, aged 10 to 15, are half-Iranian and did not have the easiest year among their peers. "It's been hard for them sometimes and last year was the worst," said their mother. "But people are beginning to get a little more mature about it."