The landslide victory of Montgomery County executive candidate Neal Potter gave him the mandate he wanted, but uncertain relationships with the state and a new County Council could make it harder for Potter to put his stamp on the county.

Potter will take over the helm of a $1.6 billion county government after a decisive victory over Republican candidate Albert Ceccone and a write-in challenge from incumbent Sidney Kramer. Some supporters had worried that a three-way race would so split the vote that any winner would come into office automatically diminished.

Potter's surprising 61 percent of the vote allays those fears, but the 75-year-old council veteran will still have to contend with a refashioned and newly bipartisan County Council, a skeptical legislative delegation, a business community worried about his policies, and hard economic times. The voters' approval Tuesday of a measure limiting taxes could prove to be an additional obstacle.

"I'm relieved of one burden and facing bigger ones ahead," Potter said yesterday at a news conference announcing the appointment of his transition team.

This week's voting returns four Democratic incumbents to the County Council -- all of whom are seen as interested in running for county executive in four years. The biggest council changes stem from the five new district seats, sure to inject more parochial interests into council deliberations. The district elections helped bring two Republicans to a body dominated for two decades by Democrats.

The school board also will undergo changes in membership that reflect the shifting dynamics of the county's student population. James Cronin, a two-term incumbent, was unseated by Alan Cheung, the board's first Asian American, and Ana Sol Gutierrez, the first Hispanic member of a local school board in Maryland, won a district seat. Carol Fanconi won an upcounty seat, while the winner of the Silver Spring seat was determined only last night after a count of absentee ballots showed that Frances Brenneman had defeated Donald R. Buckner.

Potter said county voters' approval of a tax limitation measure signaled support for a fairer tax system. Potter reiterated his support for new taxes on development and automobile users -- proposals that have enraged some members of the business community.

Potter was casual and folksy in his first news conference as executive-elect. He joked about a flap over the timing of the annual executive's ball (it was moved ahead of schedule so Kramer could preside over it as executive) but said he would attend that function and not hold an inauguration. He made himself available to a seemingly endless list of questions but tried to avoid being pinned down on specifics.

The picture that emerged is of an administration willing to make changes in the county's balance of power.

For example, Potter said that the executive wields too much power in county planning policies and that he would push state legislators to return some of that power to the council. Unlike Kramer, who retained most of his predecessor's appointees, Potter said he might ask all department heads to submit letters of resignation as a way of evaluating who should stay and who should go.

And, he said, specific projects such as a planned trash incinerator for Dickerson and a $100 million trolley between Silver Spring and Bethesda will get a second look in the early days of his administration.

"Neal is a different kind of executive than Sid {Kramer} or Charlie {Charles Gilchrist} . . . . He will want to study things more, consider them more," said Del. Michael R. Gordon (D-Montgomery).

Gordon suggested that the county might see a weakening of the position of county executive, with the council and the delegation to Annapolis picking up some of the power.

"It's a whole big, different ballgame," said Norman Christeller, the former chairman of the Planning Board who was named to the transition team.

Christeller said he didn't believe the changes would make Potter a weaker executive. He said experience elsewhere, in such places as Prince George's County, has shown that when a council expands and goes to district representation, it becomes weaker. And, he said, a bipartisan body tends to be weaker than those composed of one political party.

Potter's views on growth and planning -- issues that are the keystone of much of Montgomery politics -- are similar to those of the two Republicans elected to the council, Betty Ann Krahnke, from the Bethesda and Chevy Chase district, and Nancy Dacek, from the upcounty.

Potter said he realizes he will have to contend with the lingering hard feelings between his and Kramer's supporters. "I'm not one to hold grudges and I hope working with people with goodwill will erase the lingering problems," he said.