ANNAPOLIS -- As a candidate for Anne Arundel County executive, Robert R. Neall made no secret of his contempt for the County Council. The seven-member body, he often said, had been "molded like clay" by County Executive James Lightizer.

Neall's rhetoric may have been appropriate during his campaign against Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus, a two-term council member. Now, however, the message could come back to haunt the 42-year-old Republican, who will assume the county executive's office on Dec. 3.

Last week's general election in Anne Arundel yielded the most politically diverse council in two decades, one that is acutely aware of the "rubber stamp" label that plagued its predecessor and comprised of newcomers eager to make their marks.

As a result, some analysts here said, Neall, former minority leader of the House of Delegates, could be faced with a legislative branch less supportive than the one that served with Lighthizer. And the council itself, which in the past was characterized by unanimous votes, could succumb to the contentious public deliberations that mark other bipartisan bodies, others said.

"I think the council is going to start thinking like a council and how we can become more visible as policy-makers," said Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat who was reelected to a third term on the council. "There is going to be an effort, I believe, to be a voice that is, if not different {from the executive's}, at least will be a voice."

The council that will be sworn in next month will have four new members, among them the first two Republicans to serve in 20 years. George F. Bachman (D-Linthicum), 69; Edward Middlebrooks (D-Glen Burnie), 35; and Diane R. Evans (R-Arnold), 42, were selected to fill vacant seats. The fourth, Republican Carl G. Holland, 50, a Pasadena liquor salesman, unseated four-term Democratic incumbent Edward C. Ahern Jr.

Virginia P. Clagett, 47, a four-term Democrat from West River, narrowly won reelection. Democratic council member David G. Boschert, 43, of Crownsville, ran unopposed.

For many observers, the record of the old council was typified by the actions taken at its last meeting in October. At that meeting, council members approved the $1.3 million sale of 10 acres in Odenton on which a private developer plans to build an ice skating rink for use by the Washington Capitals and passed a series of growth controls for the Odenton area.

Both bills were controverisal and both were supported by Lighthizer. After several weeks of behind-the-scenes lobbying, the council approved them unanimously.

According to Lamb, the equilibrium established between Lighthizer and the council's seven members over the last eight years was partially a function of the fact that all were moderate Democrats.

Democrats will retain the majority of votes on the council, and may try to counter the loss of the county executive's office -- and poise themselves to retake it in four years -- by resisting the conservative, business-oriented vision of Neall's Republican administration.

"I think we will have a good relationship with the new executive, but we will be scrutinizing his requests very carefully and be more of a check and balance than perhaps we were in the past," Boschert said.

But Robert Agee, Lighthizer's chief aide, disagrees that the new council will necessarily be any more independent or disagreeable than the old one. He points out that the county's charter invests most of the government's power in the executive branch, giving the executive the sole authority to make cabinet appointments or cut the size of the government's work force.

Similarly, when the executive prepares his budget, the council may only cut it or increase the education portion. Agee added that in a year when many of Anne Arundel's voters seem to be clamoring for tax relief, Neall's pledge of fiscal conservatism is not likely to find many dissenters.