In the end, it may not matter much that Robert M. Potter will get to keep his seat on the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

The Prince George's County Council voted 7 to 2 last week to delay Potter's reappointment to the influential bicounty utility authority after some blacks accused him of insensitivity to minority businesses. A majority of council members indicated, however, that they support Potter and will vote July 21 to keep him on the board.

What is important about last week's action, political observers say, is that a coalition of black political, business and civic leaders used their opposition to Potter to push to the forefront long-simmering complaints that blacks are being cut out of the economic development boom in Prince George's.

In a county with a black population proportion approaching 50 percent, the move reflected a drive by blacks for more political clout and a larger piece of the economic pie. It was the first time blacks have publicly opposed a county official's appointment since 1983, and it is expected to spur further efforts to allot more contracts to minority firms.

"Any time people for the first time show that they have some clout, it heightens tensions," said Linwood Jones, president of the Black Democratic Council. "What we did the other day gives a strong message to some folks."

"It represents a kind of political sophistication in the black community that is emerging {and} that has not been there before," said Alvin Thornton, a county resident and professor of political science at Howard University. "It provides a greater sharing of leadership.

"Blacks are not going to be satisfied with having a couple of County Council members and having a prosecutor. While that is good, the question continues to be, how do you get inside of the network of friends and buddies that run the WSSC operation? How do you break {the political system} open?"

The showdown in Prince George's appeared to parallel a sim- ilar clash in neighboring Montgomery County. There, the NAACP and a coalition of citizens groups persuaded the County Council last week to delay the nomination of John P. Hewitt to the planning board amid allegations that he failed to dismantle a racially segregated work area at a county facility when he was parks director.

In both Prince George's and Montgomery, the moves amounted to rebuffs for the county executives. The Potter nomination marked the second time in six months that black political leaders have clashed with County Executive Parris Glendening over a WSSC appointment.

The move to delay Hewitt's nomination was a setback for County Executive Sidney Kramer, who chose him for the post and rejected calls from civil rights and civic groups for an independent investigation of charges against Hewitt.

Nevertheless, the two disputes also reflect major differences between the two counties. In Montgomery, civil rights groups have opposed Hewitt's appointment because of an incident more than 13 years ago.

Hewitt, who has been accused of failing to take action against a segregated dressing area at the Meadowbrook maintenance yard in Chevy Chase, has denied he knew of the segregated facility. The Montgomery County Council will investigate the allegations before acting on Hewitt's nomination July 23.

In Prince George's, state Sen. Albert Wynn said that opposition to Potter sent a message. "Economic development is the premier issue for the black community," he said. Black groups want minority businesses to get a larger percentage of the millions of dollars in contracts let each year by the county government and local agencies such as WSSC, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Prince George's school board.

Potter's reappointment was delayed after black leaders asked the council to allow time for a meeting to discuss charges of discrimination at WSSC against minority businesses. Potter, who was chairman of the commission until two weeks ago, has done little to address the issue, critics say. Potter has denied the charges.

The dispute of Potter's nomination appeared to broaden a conflict that emerged last February, when black members of the county delegation held up support for two county tax proposals to pressure Glendening to appoint former WSSC minority enterprise officer Henry Arrington to the board.

In a dispute in 1983, an outcry from civil rights groups forced Glendening to drop Joseph D. Vasco from a list of candidates for county police chief because of charges that Vasco had been involved in what were alleged to be police killings of armed robbery suspects.

"We don't have any delusions that in 10 days or so we can turn around WSSC," Wynn said. "We can try to clear the air. We can try to come away with the knowledge that {Potter} is going to try to strengthen procurement, the Minority Business Enterprise Office and staffing. In the longer term, what we have to do is press upon the county the importance of the issue."