Minutes after being sworn in Monday night as a new member of the Falls Church City Council, Dale Warren Dover sided with three council members of an opposing political party to win the mayor's seat in a 4 to 3 vote.

Dover's action angered members of his party, Citizens for a Better City, who had helped him get elected in May and who had wanted him to support David Minton for the seat. Dover defeated Minton with the support of council members Susanne Bachtel, Cynthia Garner and James Slattery, members of the Falls Church Citizens Organization.

In his acceptance speech, Dover said he intends to lead the divided City Council to overcome party differences and to cooperate better, a goal he expressed during the campaign. He joined fellow Citizens for a Better City members Minton, Phillip Thomas and Brian O'Connor in winning all four open seats on the seven-member council. Dover joined CBC members in electing O'Connor as vice mayor.

"It is encouraging that council members who formerly have been characterized as the opposition have stepped forward to offer their support in the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation," said Dover, a lawyer and former diplomat who is the city's first black council member. "Inter- and intra-party strife that does not promote the best interests of the city will be discouraged."

In the past two years, council members representing CBC, a party that has controlled the council for more than 20 years, have guarded political dominance over council members belonging to the Falls Church Citizens Organization by continually voting them down on issues.

For its part, the FCCO, formed three years ago to promote slower growth and lower taxes, has consistently criticized CBC-supported policies and slowed passage of some legislation it has opposed.

Some CBC council members criticized Dover's action as politically naive, and more divisive than conciliatory, saying he has betrayed his voters and the party. Their favored candidate, Minton, is a lawyer who has lived in the city 18 years, 12 years longer than Dover, and who has longer ties with CBC and more experience in government.

Minton called Dover's action "a violation of his nomination, his campaign . . . and the workers who went door to door" for him during the campaign. "He sees himself as the Abe Lincoln of Falls Church that will bring us all together. I think he has an enormous amount of self confidence and is totally apolitical."

Instead of gaining support from both parties, Dover has no support now from at least his own party, Minton said. "I don't think he has any comprehension of what he's gotten himself into."

Minton said that by allying with Dover, FCCO council members have "stolen the {city council} election after the election was decided" and "converted the majority into what would appear to be the minority" on the council.

Dover said his opponents in the party are a vocal few who apparently want someone with a strong party affiliation to be mayor rather than a good conciliator. He said he believes his constituency to be more broad-based than partisan and that as mayor, it will be his duty to stand a middle line between the two parties and also represent those with no strong party affiliation.

"I will kick the parties out of the council and I think people know that and I think it's deeply disturbing to them," he said. "I'm a fairly devout parliamentarian. I do believe in the right of the minority as well as the ability of the majority to make its views known and enforced."

Dover said he would have appreciated it if other CBC council members had supported his candidacy. However, he said, he voted his conscience. "David {Minton}, whom I do respect . . . was the lowest vote-getter on our ticket. I was the highest."