From outward appearances, Ashton Heights is a typical Arlington neighborhood. But inside the prim Victorian and red-brick houses on the tree-lined streets beats the heart of the county's Who's Who list.

If you lived in the neighborhood, for example, you could borrow a lawnmower from county Treasurer Frank O'Leary, paint brushes from County Board member Albert C. Eisenberg, a rake from former County Board member Dorothy T. Grotos, watch a Redskins game with Sheriff James A. Gondles, or debate School Board policies with member Dorothy H. Stambaugh.

If you're interested in politics, there's Virginia Del. Warren G. Stambaugh and his opponent in this month's elections, Charles G. Viars; Sharon Davis, the immediate past chairwoman of the Arlington Democratic Committee and Eisenberg's wife; Charlene Bickford, the current leader of the local Democratic Party, and Charles Rinker, immediate past president of the 10th District Democratic Committee.

Circuit Court Judge William L. Winston, Assistant County Attorney Naomi Klaus, Economic Development Director Thomas C. Parker, financial chief Anna Lee Berman, and public works planning chief Mark Kellogg also call Ashton Heights home.

Most of those people live within the area covered by the Ashton Heights Civic Association, while a few live in the Lyon Park Civic Association district. All are residents of the Ashton Heights voting precinct, roughly bounded by Rte. 50, N. Glebe Road, N. Garfield Street and Wilson Boulevard.

Just five years ago, the largest concentration of the county's political and civic leaders could be found in the "07 zip code" area of North Arlington's ritzier neighborhoods.

Why then is there such a large concentration of so many of the better-known names and faces of official Arlington in this neighborhood?

"It's something in the water," joked Warren Stambaugh.

"I had to move over here because that's where all the action is," Bickford quipped.

"The real reason is that, in order for people not to have to drive around and find a parking space in the neighborhood, everybody likes to live close together and just walk to meetings in each others' houses," said County Board Chairman John G. Milliken, who recently moved after living in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. Milliken's parents, Jack and Herselle Milliken, still live in the neighborhood -- she being a fixture in Democratic politics for the last 16 of the 25 years they have lived there.

There also are serious theories for the high concentration, linking it to the housing stock and the fact that the neighborhood is in the midst of a county-wide development phenomenon that has spawned civic and political activism.

"Certainly we feel the pressures from development a lot more than if you're living in an area far removed," said civic activist and former County Board member Grotos.

Board member Eisenberg agrees: "When you see the effects up close, you become very conscious of" the impact of development on community life. That interest, he said, leads to involvement in civic issues ranging from campaigns to save a local supermarket to battles to keep a proposed roller-skating rink out of the area.

The neighborhood's charm was what drew most of the residents to the area, they say.

"It's a good place for raising a family," said O'Leary. "And when we were younger, it was the best buy in Arlington in terms of housing."

Although many Ashton Heights residents have lived in the area 30 to 40 years, the neighborhood has a substantial number of newcomers .

"It seems to attract the kind of young people, with or without children, who like old trees and a variety of housing styles and a diversity of neighbors," said Carrie Johnson, Ashton Heights precinct president for the nonpartisan Arlingtonians for a Better County coalition.

"You get a livelier atmosphere here," she said, "than in neighborhoods where people treat their driveways as drawbridges."