In keeping with the spirit of a new year, the city of Alexandria today should have a new mayor, and as a result a new style of leadership.

Last night, Vice Mayor Patricia S. Ticer (D) was expected to become acting mayor after the City Council formally accepted the resignation of James P. Moran Jr., who will assume the job of 8th District congressman today.

Ticer, who will serve as mayor through June, readily admits that she "reacts more slowly" than Moran, whose occasional outbursts have become a part of Alexandria lore.

"Jim can be a little abrasive," said Ticer, 55, an announced mayoral candidate in the upcoming spring council election. "I'm a little more temperate."

For instance, some might say that Moran, a onetime amateur boxer, was in rare form at a recent Saturday council meeting.

At the meeting's start, Moran's integrity was questioned by John Chapman Gager, a vocal council critic who also champions animal rights.

Moran sat quietly through much of Gager's cutting oratory, but before Gager left council chambers, Moran fired back.

"John, you might be interested to know that we are planning to turn the animal shelter into a taxidermist," Moran said. "But look at it this way, John: Either way you'll get your dog back . . . . I shouldn't have said that."

According to Moran, a Democrat who defeated U.S. Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) in November, "Patsy is going to be more refined. She might be less likely to joke around. There are times when I kidded around, almost to the point of being crude."

Jokes notwithstanding, Ticer was quick to point out that she expects serious times ahead.

"These will be the most difficult times anyone has seen as mayor," said Ticer, referring to the prospect of dwindling state funds and debates concerning several important corridors in the city, including Potomac Yard.

"We have to wait and see if the prophecies of doom {declining state resources} are correct," Ticer said. "We don't want to raise taxes, but we will have to keep our options open. We are going to have a shortfall of revenue when there is also the need to maintain services."

On the issue of development in areas such as Potomac Yard and Potomac Greens, Ticer describes herself as "slow growth."

She favors growth that can be "absorbed without destroying what's always been here."

Moran said he knows that the council will be fiscally responsible, but he worries "that we {the council} will want to vote no growth for short-term benefits. The short-term benefits are clearly political."

"Sometimes people don't think about the need to expand the tax base to provide for infrastructure," Moran said. "It's not so much a concern with my friends on council as the pressure that they will get, which will be difficult to resist."

Ticer, a former real estate agent who has been a council member since 1982, takes over the post of mayor just as the race for City Council begins to take shape.

Moran suggested that activists, knowing that Ticer and other council members will be out looking for votes as well as financial support, will increase pressure tactics.

His advice to Ticer is to remember that "it's far more important to be able to go to sleep at night at peace with yourself than to appease all the people."

Ticer, who has a bachelor's degree in government from Sweet Briar College, will become the second member of her family to serve as Alexandria mayor.

Her husband's father, Edmund F. Ticer, served as mayor in 1931 and 1932. Her husband, Jack, was a council member from 1955 to 1958 and again from 1964 to 1970.

Ticer describes her leadership style as that of consensus building. As a case in point, she referred to the current relationship between the council and the School Board and school administration. "We need better communications with school officials," she said.

Ticer called a proposal for an independent audit of the school administration "potentially divisive."

Ticer, who supports a narrow examination of administration size and effectiveness, admitted that she and council members who proposed the study had been remiss in not giving school officials earlier notice.

"Leadership is making things go smoothly," said Ticer, who has served on several parent-teacher organizations and is vice chairman of the state Council on Day Care and Childhood Development.

Much of her style will remain the same, Ticer said. However, she did say that she will feel compelled to state her position on important issues sooner.

As Ticer said on the day after Moran's victory, she is now in the "hot seat."