When Susan Liberty went to work for John F. Herrity, Richard Nixon was president, the United States was trying to devise a face-saving way out of Vietnam, and Fairfax County was a sleepy appendage to the nation's capital with little economic growth of its own.

That was 1973, when Herrity was supervisor for the Springfield District and Liberty was a local Republican activist looking to get involved with county government.

"I remember reading about him in the {now-defunct} Springfield Independent," she said in a recent interview. "This guy named Jack Herrity was trying to get a Springfield community center built."

She paused, remembering. She then added, a little wistfully: "We were all kids together."

For 720,000 Fairfax residents, Republican Herrity's overwhelming defeat Nov. 3 at the hands of Democratic Supervisor Audrey Moore marked a political and philosophical change. Herrity had served on the board for 16 years, 12 of them as chairman, and Moore's slow-growth policies were the antithesis of Herrity's.

But for Liberty and one other long-serving member of Herrity's staff, Bob Foreman, the election had much more personal implications. County voters had to prepare for a new governing style; Liberty and Foreman had to find new jobs.

For both of them, it was an abrupt reminder that in politics, there are no forevers and no guarantees -- even after more than a decade of stable employment. Although Herrity's staff numbers six or seven regulars, none has been with him as long as Liberty and Foreman.

Foreman, 45, has been a fixture in Herrity's office since 1976, when he went to work for the newly elected chairman. Today, from his office in Herrity's 11th-floor suite in the Massey Building, he commands a magnificent view of the county, and on clear days he can see the Washington Monument, 16 miles to the east.

Unflaggingly loyal and good-humored, he has been a source of information to a generation of journalists, in charge of alerting them to everything from Herrity's three heart attacks (two in 1976, one in 1985) to last year's riot and fire at Lorton Reformatory. In return for his kindness, his file cabinets and bookshelves are crowned with coffee mugs bearing the imprimatur of every major news organization in the Washington area, as well as all manner of mementos -- the collected curios of a career in public life.

Foreman has worked on a host of projects, from securing landing rights for the Concorde supersonic jet at Dulles International Airport to rebuilding Wolf Trap Farm Park after its devastating 1982 fire. But Lorton, the District-run prison in southern Fairfax, has been Foreman's special issue. He has been Herrity's point man in trying to reach accords with the District on operations at the facility, while extracting maximum political mileage for Herrity when things there went wrong.

In conversation now, he is reflective and subdued when asked about his years with Herrity and his prospects for a new job. He refers to Jan. 1, when Moore takes over from Herrity, as "the day the light switch goes out."

"Life's a gamble," he said, gazing from his window during a recent interview. "And it could crumble any time. But the type of rewards I've realized in this job have been well beyond anyone's imagination."

He is cagey about job possibilities -- public relations, his field before signing up with Herrity, is one possibility; Capitol Hill may also be an option -- but he said he is intent on lining up something by the end of the year.

Liberty, 45, the only member of Herrity's old Springfield office staff still working for him, already has found a new job. She will join the office staff of Mason District Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III, who, with the defeat of Herrity and Supervisor Nancy K. Falck of Dranesville, becomes the county board's senior Republican. She has known Davis since he was a college student, more than 15 years ago.

"I'm sort of a local government junkie," she said. She acknowledged, however, that while the work will be similar in Davis' office -- she has concentrated on schools, child care and human services -- "I think I will miss {working for the chairman}. It's inevitable."

Although Liberty says she was "very realistic" about Herrity's chances for reelection this year, she said she was "shocked" by the margin of his defeat. Herrity received about 37 percent of the vote to 58 percent for Moore. Two independents split 5 percent. Half-jokingly, she compares the results to being "fired by 80,000 people" -- a sort of personal repudiation.

"I felt personal sadness," she said. "It's not the end of my life. But you work hard and you're around the issues and you think you're doing so much good. I really believe that wonderful things have happened here in Fairfax County . . . . Obviously, that's not what a lot of people feel."

Said Foreman: "A supervisor needs his strengths, and his strengths come from the people he appoints, his allies, his left and right arms out on the battlefield . . . . I've enjoyed dealing with the issues for Jack."