Alexandria City Attorney Cyril (Des) Calley, who has been as controversial as well known in the 22 years he has advised city officials, will not seek another term, city officials announced yesterday.

The conclusion of Calley's tenure ends what many call Alexandria's "good ol' boy era" and underscores the considerable turnover in City Hall in the last year.

"It came down to the choice: Do you want to go and reapply and push them into reappointing . . . or trying something new," Calley said yesterday.

When the City Council opened the post to applicants in November, Calley said he would reapply for his $70,000-a-year job and that he hoped longtime friends would do "some telephoning" to council members on his behalf.

"I wasn't sure at the time," Calley said about his November announcement to reapply for another three-year term. "Obviously, with a new council and new manager, it's as good as any time to try something new."

The council's decision came amid increasingly public criticism that Calley was too conservative and lax on the job.

No member of the council, which is responsible for appointing the city attorney, would say yesterday whether Calley had been pressured to leave, and all praised him for his legal knowledge and easygoing style.

But council member Lionel R. Hope hinted at what some officials say privately contributed to Calley's decision. The new council -- headed by Mayor James P. Moran Jr., who replaced five-term Mayor Charles E. Beatley -- and City Manager Vola Lawson -- who replaced nine-year veteran Douglas Harman -- are running a new, less tolerant City Hall where past connections and accomplishments carry little weight.

"Clearly that's a part of it," Hope said. "He sticks to the law as stated and does not pursue it . . . . I can understand his viewpoint, but if there are alternatives I think he should pursue them."

Last week, a lawyer who is a member of the city's Human Rights Commission blasted Calley in a letter mailed to the City Council. H. Stewart Dunn said a "lawyer of average ability" would have advised the council of ways to adopt a new law prohibiting discrimination against apartment renters with children.

Calley, who has said "I like to keep my clients out of trouble," told the council that because of existing laws protecting all-adult housing complexes, the city should steer clear of new legislation that might draw lawsuits.

Calley was never more controversial than in 1973 when he was convicted on two counts of failing to file an income tax return and served 60 days in the federal correctional facility in Allenwood, Pa.

Despite his jail term and critics, he was easily elected to two terms as city attorney before the position became a three-year appointed one in 1982. He served as an assistant city attorney from 1964 to 1976.

The new city attorney will be named after the Feb. 28 deadline for applications.

Calley's departure will not go without at least one more blast of controversy. A memo from Moran recommends paying Calley $70,074 for one year of service as special transitional counsel. The City Council is to vote on the issue tonight, and several members, who are paid $12,500 a year for their part-time work, have argued against such a sum.