Prince William County's newly appointed county executive, James H. Mullen, targeted traffic, fiscal responsibility and comprehensive planning yesterday as the key issues he wants to tackle when he begins work in early August.

Mullen's comments came after the Board of County Supervisors announced his appointment to the county's top administrative post at an annual salary of $100,000 and up to $26,000 in one-time moving costs.

The board's selection ends a six-month search that began when Robert S. Noe Jr. resigned after 11 years to join the Anden Group, a developer with major land holdings in the county.

The board interviewed 10 people culled from nearly 90 applicants.

"Mullen came in and took command of the interview," said Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco).

Mullen, 47, a former Air Force captain, said he expected his experience as deputy city manager of Aurora, Colo., would translate well to Prince William, the second largest jurisdiction in Northern Virginia.

"I have had exposure to a number of growth scenarios both in Colorado and {in a previous job in Caspar} Wyoming," he said.

"Aurora was until recently one of the fastest growing cities in the country," he said.

Prince William, a bedroom community of 230,000, is struggling to cope with more than a decade of massive growth that left gridlock and overburdened schools in its wake.

As in Prince William County, most of Aurora's 230,000 residents work outside the city, Mullen said.

Mullen stressed frugal budgeting in his remarks, a tune sure to please officials in Prince William, who can no longer count on a hot real estate market to finance new programs. "When you're adding firemen . . . you're making a commitment to those people and you better not make it if you can't see it through," he said.

The new county executive also will have to plunge into Prince William's fractious efforts to update its comprehensive plan for development, which guides growth. Mullen said he has had little hands-on experience in planning, but envisions his role "as much more in the broad sense . . . of the process and policy direction."

The North Carolina native said he does not expect to make any major staff changes in his new job and wants Connie Bawcum, who had been a leading contender for the top post, to remain deputy county executive.