The transition to Sharon Pratt Dixon as the District's top executive and the budget woes she will inherit have put the city's 48,000-strong work force on notice: Get your re'sume's ready. The New Year's tidings may be a pink slip.

As part of her campaign, Dixon said she wanted to cut 2,000 people from the work force. Members of her transition team have been joined by community members to determine which positions -- and which people -- are crucial in what some have called a bloated bureaucracy.

One person involved with the review process said she and others on her team had been asked to submit names for a "hit list" of people who should not be returned to their management posts.

First evidence of those lists surfaced on Friday, as Dixon accepted resignations, effective Jan. 2, from 17 members of the Barry administration. She was thwarted in persuading some, such as City Administrator Carol B. Thompson, to stay on in other capacities. Thompson, who said she spoke personally to Dixon and transition chairman Vernon E. Jordan Jr., instead will function as a kind of unpaid adviser to the new administration.

But the mayor-elect, asking for help in easing a "smooth transition," delayed making cuts on other parts of the payroll by asking that most of the 177 employees appointed by Mayor Marion Barry stay on for at least two months past her Jan. 2 inauguration.

In the halls of District government, the waiting game has few enthusiastic players. John Moore, an employee in economic development, doesn't yet know what to do.

Moore, 46, was hired by the District in 1977 and, over the years, worked his way from community planner to development zone administrator, a position to which he was appointed by Barry. He is worried not only about his job. He has a staff of eight people who want to know whether their jobs will be there tomorrow.

"This is the first time I can remember that there's been a transition. When Marion Barry came in, it wasn't so cut and dried that people would be asked to leave," Moore said. "The question everybody has is: What happens after Jan. 2?

"Will I be paying my bills the same way? Will there be a commitment to the job we do? Who will be in charge? And will I be able to use my expertise?"

Moore is committed to his work in the District, directed toward drumming up development in the Anacostia area. Because he was hired as a career employee, Moore has the option, if he is not asked to remain a manager, to take a position on the regular payroll. That change could mean a $10,000 drop in his salary.

"It's something I have to consider," he said. "But my career objective is to change Anacostia. The question to me is: Is that what Sharon Pratt Dixon wants? The answer to that affects what John Moore wants."

Russell A. Smith, secretary to the D.C. Council for eight years, said he plans to resign his $79,000-a-year job to avoid the political cross-fire of the next few months, and that he knows some of his 35 staff members will do the same.

"Many of them don't want to be {subjected to} the decision-making that would be involved," he said. "It's a sad time, because we'll be closing the door on some professional relationships that have been formed through the years . . . . This is a strain. This will not be a jolly-holly Christmas."

Workers at every level of government say this disorienting time of transition -- the first since the time of Barry's first mayoral election 12 years ago -- has been more tense because of the deepening recession and the city's financial straits.

In October, the revenue-drained city tried to avoid layoffs and firings by asking the federal government to allow longtime city workers to retire early. District officials said that without the early retirement, the city payroll would have to be cut by 2,184 positions by April.

The federal government, which can grant the early-out option when a significant portion of a work force is on line to be fired, agreed that employees with 25 years of District and federal service could retire five years early, and receive full benefits. About 4,000 employees were deemed eligible.

As of Oct. 31, 242 District employees opted to take such retirement. Officials estimate that by the year's end, about 500 could volunteer to retire.

How many more employees will bow out -- under the federal agreement, early retirement is an option until March 30 -- will likely be determined in the next few months by decisions of the Dixon transition team.

Vernon Hawkins, deputy director for the Department of Human Services' program operations and analysis, has worked for the District government for 27 years and lived through all the young government's transitions. He is impressed with the Dixon team's fact-gathering. Yet he knows many government workers are anxious about Dixon's "broom-and-shovel" management approach.

"When you look at the vote, it's very clear that of the 48,000 employees, a substantial number voted for Sharon Pratt Dixon. They too wanted a change, and people now are ready to move. It's how they're going to be marshalled and directed that is still open."

Early retirement is an option for Hawkins. But he wants to work again for the District. "This is my city. My family is here. I was educated here, and my daughter was educated here. For many African Americans, this city has provided an opportunity to grow and to understand the society -- America -- that we live in . . . .

"And I'm a young 51 years old," Hawkins said. "There's still a lot of work to do in this community."

Wylie L. Williams Jr. has been deputy mayor for economic development for three years. He said he submitted his resignation in November with no doubts about his job status.

When he was told Friday that Dixon had accepted his resignation, Williams said he had "not expected anything different."

"New administrations are a way of life when you are in city government," Williams said. "City managers lead a nomadic life." Williams, who has direct responsibility for departments including housing and economic development, banking and consumer and regulatory affairs, said he has seen the deliberate nature of the Dixon review take its toll on his staff.

"The uncertainty -- which is natural -- certainly gets in the way of operation . . . just with regard to people giving their full attention to the work at hand," Williams said. "Without exception, these people are pledged to do their very best. But they are all human too."

Staff writer Nathan McCall contributed to this report.