Kate Hanley and Myron Smith couldn't be more different.

Hanley is a vivacious former schoolteacher and Smith is a reserved retired Navy captain. Their striking differences mirror the makeup of Providence, the unusually diverse district they both want to represent on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Hanley, the Democratic incumbent, and Smith, the Republican challenger, have knocked on thousands of doors, each offering a different message.

Smith says Democrats have ruled Providence too long.

An engineering consultant and a former Navy civil engineer, the Republican contends that his technical background makes him better qualified than Hanley to be a county supervisor.

"I have the technical and financial training necessary to manage a county with a $1.7 billion budget," Smith said. "I can do {the job} better."

Hanley, who has a master's degree in social science from Harvard University, argues that her opponent's background is neither essential nor preferred: "The county has staff to do its engineering. Those in elected office should take a broader view."

Moreover, Hanley said, Smith barely knows the county, having moved to Fairfax in 1982. "He . . . registered to vote last year, and now he is running for office," she said.

Providence is considered a microcosm of Fairfax County. It stretches toward Dulles International Airport in the west and borders Arlington County in the east. It includes expensive residential subdivisions and lower-priced rental apartments. It has Tysons Corner, Fair Oaks Mall, long stretches of I-66 and Lee Highway, and about 48,000 registered voters out of 86,000 residents.

Hanley has represented the district for one year, after succeeding Democrat James M. Scott, who resigned to take another job. She had been Scott's appointee on the School Board. In a special election for the district seat last year, Hanley received 5,130 votes and Republican state Del. Stephen E. Gordy won 3,787.

Harris Miller, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Party, believes Hanley will easily win this election: "The last time, she ran against an incumbent {in the state delegation} and blew the guy away."

In the current campaign, Hanley has raised $25,000; Smith has raised $10,000.

Hanley, 44, has lived in Fairfax since 1966, except for three years, when she moved to Western Maryland near a hardware store that she and her husband owned and operated.

Smith, 51, moved to Fairfax from Virginia Beach five years ago. Because he moved so many times with the Navy -- to the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Alaska, Panama and Wyoming -- Smith said he did not reregister in each new home town and instead voted in his home district in Oxnard, Calif. When he retired from the Navy last year and decided to remain in Fairfax, he said, he registered here.

Since arriving in Northern Virginia, Smith has volunteered to local civic associations and PTAs. He said he decided to enter this political race because he understands the technical side of the district's many problems, including transportation, flooding and environmental difficulties.

Dorsey Wittig, the Republican chairman in the Providence District, said Smith has "the skills the county desperately needs." He said, "In terms of understanding problems, builders, roads and just understanding the language, he has a much better ability than Mrs. Hanley."

Several civic association leaders in Providence said they had met Hanley but knew little about Smith. Coralie Beyer, a Providence representative on the county's Federation of Citizens Associations, said: "I myself don't know a thing about him. I've received no literature from him yet."

Hanley says she wants to pursue "balanced growth" and expand the road system so it can move the enormous amount of traffic generated by current and planned developments.

In her short tenure on the board, Hanley has been an ally of Supervisor Audrey Moore, a Democrat running for the chairmanship against incumbent John F. Herrity, a Republican.

Hanley and Moore voted in December for a measure that would have restricted the amount of construction on land zoned for industrial use.

Smith said he would have voted against the measure to reduce allowable construction on certain land parcels and criticized Hanley for taking what he called a "too narrow view with respect to future development."

He said the Democrat automatically rejected construction projects that are "not in accordance with the current comprehensive plan," whereas he would evaluate each project on its own merit and, if necessary, amend the comprehensive plan -- a document intended to guide the county's growth -- to accommodate what he called "beneficial" development.

Pressed for specific transportation remedies, Smith said there were "inexpensive steps" that he would advocate, including better traffic signal coordination, trip-activated -- instead of automatic -- left-turn signals, and completion of lanes that currently "go nowhere." For instance, he said, sections of Rte. 50 abruptly narrow from five to four lanes, dangerously slowing traffic.

Hanley said she would direct her energy toward pushing for road improvements that have been approved but are stalled in the bureaucracy. Widening Lee Highway and upgrading key interchanges on that road as well as Rte. 50 would be a priority.

A former social studies teacher, Hanley is a educators' advocate who has worked hard to get higher pay for the county's 7,500 classroom teachers. She also is involved in the Northern Virginia Housing Coalition, a group that is trying to find ways to bring more affordable housing to the area, which consistently ranks as one of the most costly places in the country to live.

Providence voters will pick one of the candidates Nov. 3.