D.C. Board of Education member Barbara Lett Simmons, an energetic longtime city activist who is executive director of the District chapter of the NAACP, formally entered the race for an at-large City Council seat yesterday, pledging to make local government more responsive to citizens.

Simmons, 54, a member of the school board for nine years, promised to champion "creative legislation" in the areas of housing and jobs and said she would not be swayed by special interest groups.

"I pledge that my position on the City Council will continue to be a creative one and a sensitive one," she told an audience of about 50 supporters at her campaign headquarters on 708 11th Street NW. "I intend to do business for and by the people because that is who government is made to serve."

Simmons, who drew the second highest number of votes in last year's school board elections and the third highest in the citywide elections for delegates to the D.C. Statehood Convention, is regarded by many as a formidable politician who over the years has built up a broad base of political support among the city's schools, unions and churches.

Simmons is entering an at-large race that has already attracted Johnny Barnes, a former aide to D.C. Del. Walter F. Fauntroy, and City Council member Betty Ann Kane, who last month dropped out of the mayor's race to seek reelection to her at-large seat on the 13-member council.