Last week's defeat of five-term Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley and three-term City Council member Donald C. Casey is more than a call for fresh faces at City Hall. At least that's the way party leaders say they view the city elections.

Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Ring says that after months of headline-grabbing controversy often fueled by Beatley and Casey, the voters were seeking a "new tone" in city politics.

And Democratic Party Chairwoman Joann Miller says she believes many voters were consciously electing a "less contentious council."

Beatley, a Democrat who was Alexandria's top elected official for a total of 15 years, said this week that he wasn't sure why voters rejected him in favor of the former Democratic vice mayor, James P. Moran Jr. " But I know the Republicans determined the election," Beatley said. "I only got one-tenth of their vote."

Whatever the reason for the results, the mayor said: "They've voted for a vastly different council . . . . There's going to be a lot of changes."

Beatley, a 68-year-old retired airline pilot, said he plans to devote more time to his glider school in Warrenton. And he predicted that even though Democrats retained control of the City Council by keeping four of the seven seats, the party has lost much of its strength at City Hall.

"The four are more Democratic in name," the tall, white-haired mayor said. "They didn't work together as a team during the campaign . . . . The Republicans got rid of the two strong Democrats."

A lifelong Democrat, the 39-year-old Moran ran as an independent after Beatley had won the party nomination by default when no Democrat was willing to oppose him.

Moran's victory was all the more remarkable because it came 11 months after he was forced to resign as vice mayor and pleaded no contest to a conflict-of-interest charge. A former Senate aide who had been regarded as the city's rising Democratic star, Moran coasted to victory winning 9,308 votes, 2,000 more than Beatley.

The new mayor, along with Redella (Del) Pepper, 47, a former aide to Beatley, and Democratic incumbents Lionel R. Hope and Patricia S. Ticer, will control the new council that is to be sworn in July 1.

All three Republican incumbents, Margaret B. Inman, Carlyle C. Ring, and Robert L. Calhoun, easily won reelection. Significantly, in a city dominated by Democrats for the past century, the three unsuccessful candidates who came closest to winning and polled more votes than Casey were Republicans.

Casey, a patent lawyer who served as an outspoken member of the council for nine years and handily won reelection twice, this time ran a distant tenth in a field of 14.

Inman, a 58-year-old bank officer who as the top voter-getter, is likely to be named in July to the ceremonial position of vice mayor, agreed that there was a "strong nonpartisan flavor to the results." But she said that part of the vote against Beatley and Casey was caused by "distress that the city's name was darkened in a way that seemed unnecessary."

Both Democrats were soundly criticized by many after insisting on a city inquiry into allegations, first published by the Alexandria Port Packet, that Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel improperly halted a 1984 police drug probe.

The issue quickly became inflamed. Douglas Harman, the city manager at the time, stood firmly behind Strobel, saying there was no substance to the allegations. He refused to place Strobel, the director of the city's police, fire and code forces, on leave. Beatley and Casey not only criticized Strobel but also publicly questioned Harman's ability to control his department heads.

Harman had enjoyed unusual popularity in his nine years in Alexandria. When he announced during the controversy that he was leaving to take a job as city manager of Fort Worth, many in the city blamed Beatley and Casey.

A special grand jury that investigated Strobel's conduct not only vindicated the public safety director, but also blasted "the callous, politically motivated activities of certain members of the Alexandria City Council." Clearly, the jury was targeting Beatley and Casey -- as the voters would two months later.

"Everybody feels a need for reconciliation," said GOP chairwoman Ring this week. "We're all hoping to see a different tone on the council. We don't need any more members picking fights."