Neal Potter, a 15-year veteran of the Montgomery County Council, announced plans yesterday to seek an unprecedented fifth term on that often-fractious legislative body. But he gave no clue whether he would endorse other candidates hoping to ride his coattails in this year's election.

In typical low-key fashion, the 70-year-old Potter released a short written statement as the council was meeting.

He said the decision was a difficult one to make because he would like to spend more time with family and friends "I have too long neglected." But he said he was motivated by a desire to complete unfinished county business and to build better working relationships on the council and with the county executive.

In an interview later, Potter said forming a slate of council candidates for the election would be a necessity, but he sharply discounted the importance of his endorsement in other races.

"I think people are concerned about getting all the endorsements they can," he said, " . . . but I don't try to be a kingmaker. I don't think anyone can in this county -- the voters won't buy it."

Over the years Potter has managed to stay above the political backbiting that has factionalized the council, and has come to be known for his studied approach to issues and his expertise on such matters as land use and taxation.

As a result, both state Sen. Sidney Kramer (D-Montgomery) and Council member David L. Scull, the two leading county executive candidates, are reported to be eager for his blessing.

"Neal has a sense of history. He provides so much knowledge and background I can't even being to imagine him not being there," said Jay S. Bernstein, the county Democratic chairman and a likely council candidate.

Yesterday, Kramer and Scull were quick to issue statements applauding Potter's decision and his call for less devisiveness in county government.

Potter will be running for reelection at a time when three other incumbents are leaving the council. Two -- Scull and Esther P. Gelman, who is running for Congress -- are seeking other offices and the third, R. Scott Fosler, will be retiring.

Gail Ewing, an assistant to Gelman, also announced her candidacy for the council yesterday, the ninth county Democrat to seek a seat on the seven-member body.

Democratic council members Rose Crenca, William E. Hanna and Michael Gudis are expected to run for reelection, along with newcomers Bernstein, Michael Subin, Bruce Adams and Isaiah (Ike) Leggett.

On the Republican side, County Planning Board member Betty Ann Krahanke, Gaithersburg Mayor Bruce Goldensohn, Rockville City Council member Stephen N. Abrams and party activist Harold O'Flaherty are said to be considering the race, a GOP spokesman said.