Virginia Rep. Stan Parris says he's almost relieved.

Granted, life without Congress is not what Parris wanted. Until last month, the Republican planned to keep the job he has held for the last decade representing Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District. But in a stunning electoral upset, he lost it to Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. (D).

So as Parris plans his return to private life, he is doing something at odds with the brash, outspoken image he established during his tenure in office: He is mellowing a bit.

Although Parris remains a House member until Jan. 3, his office already has closed and constituent requests have been referred elsewhere. He and his wife are spending time at their weekend retreat on the Chesapeake Bay.

"I'm enjoying just sitting here," Parris said recently, "watching the creek go by.

"For the first time in ages, I don't have to be out at three different receptions every night," he said. "And I don't have something filling up every moment of the weekend. My wife and I have a chance to see each other. I know this won't last forever, but right now it's nice having some time."

Parris, 61, said in a recent interview that his defeat almost certainly marks the end of his political career.

After almost 30 years in public life, beginning with his election to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in the 1960s and including two unsuccessful bids for governor in the 1980s, Parris said campaigning is no longer for him.

"I have no intention of seeking another electoral office of any kind," Parris said. "That is not a Shermanesque statement {completely rejecting all political possibilities}. But my plans are not to seek public office again."

Parris may not abandon government. He has discussed several executive branch positions with members of the Bush administration, although nothing had been settled early this week.

One possibility under consideration, officials said, was making Parris head of the agency that runs the St. Lawrence Seaway. Parris said he also is weighing several offers from private employers, all in the Washington area.

Parris said he leaves office with mixed emotions. His greatest satisfaction, he said, has been working on projects that have demonstrably improved life for Washington area residents, particularly the Metrorail system and other transportation-related items.

But he has had more than his share of frustrations as well. A great deal of Parris's time was spent dealing with the District of Columbia, which has a profound impact on his constituents. Parris's district includes Alexandria and parts of three counties: southern Fairfax, eastern Prince William and northern Stafford. The District's Lorton Reformatory and Lorton landfill are both in the 8th District.

Parris is perhaps best known for his acerbic criticisms of the District government, and he frequently has been accused of "District bashing."

Moran quipped during the campaign that Parris "doesn't know whether he wants to be governor of Virginia or mayor of the District of Columbia." Parris maintains he got a bum rap.

"I sincerely believe that statehood {for the District} is unconstitutional and not in the best interests of the country," Parris said.

"I said so, I fought for my beliefs, and I think I paid a price for that. But I also worked with the District on many issues, and you never heard about those. That's the way politics is."

Serving in the House's Republican minority also made Parris feel limited in what he could do, he said.

"I have never served in the majority in any legislative body at any time in my career," he said. "I would have liked to change that."

But Parris said many frustrations for members of Congress are rooted in the system itself.

"I think we absolutely have to change the system, or the country is going to face grave problems," he said.

"The budgetary disaster that we had this fall shows that the system is not working. We simply have to do better."

Unsurprisingly, Parris's defeat remains a sensitive subject. He and Moran waged an especially nasty campaign, and neither they nor members of their staffs have spoken since the election.

Parris blames his defeat on the budget crisis, saying that he dropped 20 percentage points in his polls when the government was closed temporarily.

"People didn't like the message, so they killed the messenger," Parris said. "That was me."

But Parris said that, overall, he remains grateful for the opportunity to have served in the House.

"It has become a cliche to say this, but you really feel like you had a chance to do something that matters," he said.

"I'm like a walking history of Northern Virginia in some ways. I can remember when you could go quail hunting out at a place called Tysons Corner, and it was good hunting. This is a very different place now. And I hope I helped make it better.

"I wouldn't do anything different," Parris said. "I have no regrets. And one way or another, I plan on staying around to make sure we continue getting better."