Ruth R. Crone, the second-ranking employee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, was named yesterday to succeed her boss as executive director of the coordinating organization for 18 area jurisdictions.

Crone, 48, who has worked for COG for 21 years, won the post over 291 other applicants, including D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), a COG board member. Crone will succeed Walter A. Scheiber, who retires next month after 25 years on the job.

Scheiber was known as a behind-the-scenes consensus builder. In picking Crone, the council's board of local elected officials sought someone who would more actively inject the regional perspective into local government decision-making, but without raising hackles, said D.C. Council member Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3), a member of the selection committee.

The council serves as a forum for resolving differences on regional issues, an organizer of the region's money-saving joint purchasing program for fuel and other supplies, a coordinator of efforts such as the Anacostia River cleanup program, and a lobbyist for the region on federal issues.

Crone takes office at a time when local jurisdictions are pinched for money and reluctant to branch into new areas. But she said she hopes to pursue new ideas that do not demand cash -- expanding the joint purchasing program, for example, or finding new areas for partnerships between government and private industry.

She said she also sees new opportunities to work with jurisdictions beyond the council's boundaries, toward Richmond and Baltimore.

Scheiber set off a controversy last year by criticizing a proposal to merge the Baltimore and Washington areas for statistical purposes, saying it could be of greater advantage to Baltimore than the District.

"Air flows that way, people flow this way," Crone said of the Baltimore-Washington relationship. "We have to go beyond our borders."

Crone was COG's director of human services and safety before becoming deputy executive director last year. Her salary will be determined by the board. The job was advertised with a salary range of $75,000 to $95,000. Scheiber makes $107,000.