Three incumbents seek to hold on to their seats on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors Tuesday in a race in which all the candidates say the issues are growth, roads and an overstaffed administration. Only Ferris M. Belman Sr., who is running for the newly established at-large seat, is unopposed.

Aquia District supervisor Philip E. Hornung faces three challengers for his seat, making that contest the most crowded, but according to Stafford politicians no single race is surfacing as "hot." All candidates are running as independents.

Hornung is opposed by semiretired businessman Ralph Metts, businessman Walter B. Snyder and Army Corps of Engineers employe S. J. (Sam) Vanderbilt.

In the Falmouth District incumbent Rebecca L. (Becky) Reed, a Fredericksburg attorney, faces retired electronics technician M.A. (Al) Fagan.

Hartwood Supervisor E. Lloyd Chittum is opposed by self-employed bookkeeper and school bus driver Susan Harding Carmichael and retired government employe John M. Porter.

Hornung agrees that quality growth is a key issue in a county that has been tagged by a recent University of Virginia population study as the fastest growing in Northern Virginia.

When he was elected four years ago, Hornung said, Stafford was undergoing accelerated residential development to meet the needs of Washington area commuters without an eye toward developing sufficient commercial growth to help pay the rising tax bills.

Although 75 percent of the county is agricultural, forested or open space, the Aquia-Garrisonville area in the north and the Falmouth-Chatham in the south are attracting new residents so quickly that officials are predicting another elementary-middle school will have to be built to handle the overflow from the one constructed just three years ago.

Stafford now has five elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools.

Population has risen from nearly 44,000 in 1982 to more than 50,000, an increase of more than 2,000 new people annually.

The heart of the county is about 45 miles from the District of Columbia and, according to county figures, about 80 percent of Stafford's workers commute to Washington or other parts of Northern Virginia.

One incumbent, Falmouth's Reed, said the county is doing its best to encourage new business and industry to locate in Stafford through the use of tax-free industrial bonds. Since 1981 the county has issued more than $30 million worth of IDA bonds, she said.

Rte. 610, the county's major east-west connector that runs for nine miles from Interstate 95 and Rte. 1 to adjoining Fauquier County, is the focus of attention for most of the candidates.

Hornung and his fellow incumbents say they spearheaded the drive to get Rte. 610 widened in key areas, pledging revenue-sharing funds totaling nearly $715,000 to match state highway department funds. More than three miles will be widened in two phases, with phase one slated to begin this year, officials said.

Metts, who served on the board twice since 1964, charged the board with having "insufficient understanding of the way highway funding works" in order to get the Rte. 610 job done as quickly as possible. Hornung, who is a child psychologist in the Arlington school system and an instructor at Northern Virginia Community College, does not have the necessary time to devote to Stafford's problems, Metts said.

Snyder, the first to throw his hat in Aquia's ring, agreed that the Rte. 610 issue should have been handled differently.

"That road should have been designated a primary road," Snyder said, "since there is more money in the primary road fund." Listing it as a secondary road has "merely put it at the top of VDH&Ts secondary road list," he said.

According to Snyder, another vital issue is the county's comprehensive plan, which has not been updated in eight years, three years behind the time state law requires jurisdictions to review their planning documents.

"It's been 18 months since the board asked the staff to update the plan," he said. "With the money we're paying the staff, it shouldn't take that long."

Vanderbilt, who is a safety manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, charged that the planning department is issuing permits for businesses and housing faster than the county can supply roads and services for them. He cited real estate taxes at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value and property taxes at $4.99 per 40 percent of assessed value as too high in light of insufficient roads and services. He also believes that Stafford has increasing recreational needs that are not being met.

In the Falmouth district, Reed said she supports a statewide road bond referendum to improve Stafford's roads. Such improvements should include a bypass at the southern end of the county, she said.

Opponent Fagan served the board during the turbulent 1970s, she said, when local newspaper headlines indicated a "constant furor" at meetings. "I don't think Mr. Fagan can run the county in a businesslike way," Reed said. With a $50 million budget Stafford County is big business, Reed said.

Fagan said he is "bitterly opposed" to Stafford paying for its own roads through revenue sharing or local funds. "Pressure should be put on the General Assembly and VDH&T to fund this county's road needs," he said. "Traffic is out of control in south Stafford. Something has to be done."

Hartwood incumbent Chittum, a contractor in the Stafford area, said he is among those candidates who believe the county administration is overstaffed. If he is reelected, he said, he will push to cut not only the county staff, which numbers 119 personnel, but some employes in the sanitary system. Chittum said he is opposed to "putting so much money" on Rte. 10, saying that the north-south Rte. 1 corridor needs similar attention.

Challenger Carmichael said her concern over what she described as wasted tax dollars, the overstaffed administration and the outdated comprehensive plan prompted her to run. "I can do more as a supervisor," said the Stafford native who worked in the county's recreation department for eight years before she resigned in order to campaign. "I saw the wrongs close up and decided to do something about them."

Porter said he is running for the Hartwood seat because the county government is "drifting," with real estate taxes that are still too high despite a recent one-cent reduction and a county staff that is in charge instead of the board. "It's the tail wagging the dog," he said. "I want to change that."

Ferris Belman was elected to the tie-breaker's position on the six-member board two years ago. County growth caused the supervisors to consider adding a seventh seat but after a public hearing decided to create an at-large seat instead. Belman, who lives in the Falmouth district, said he is glad he is unopposed. "I don't like to campaign," he said.