When Scott C. Humphrey received a telephone call from Alexandria Circuit Judge Donald H. Kent asking him to fill a vacancy on the City Council, Humphrey laughed out loud.

"Are you serious?" Humphrey, an Alexandria native, recalled asking Kent.

As it turned out, Kent was quite serious. Within a few weeks, a man who had almost no political involvement during his nearly six decades in the city was thrust into the role of City Council member.

Humphrey fills a seat created by by the election of Mayor James P. Moran Jr. to Congress.

Humphrey's selection caught many political observers by surprise. A real estate broker and longtime city businessman, he had not been recommended by either Republicans or leaders in the city's dominant Democratic Party.

By the end of last week, many people still had questions about Humphrey. Some weren't sure whether Humphrey was a Democrat or a Republican.

"I've always voted in the Democratic primary," Humphrey said in an interview Friday. "But I've never felt that party labels were that important in local government." A few moments earlier, Humphrey had laughed, saying that "neither party has claimed me. Nobody wants me."

Humphrey said Kent "was looking for someone non-political" so as not to give either political party an advantage in the May council elections. Humphrey's term ends June 30. "He wanted to be fair and not help someone get elected or reelected," Humphrey said. "I have absolutely no interest in running for elective office."

Kent did not respond to several telephone calls.

Humphrey is well known among longtime Alexandrians. He is president of R.L. Kane realty company and board chairman for the Bank of Alexandria. Much of Humphrey's life has been spent buying, selling and appraising land, and he brings a slightly different perspective to a council that has increasingly taken on a "slow growth" posture.

For example, last summer the council voted to reduce the density of building in Eisenhower Valley, a largely undeveloped tract straddling the Capital Beltway long thought to be the place for the city's most concentrated growth. Humphrey spoke in opposition to downzoning the area.

"I felt that they {council members} were limiting the opportunity for good growth by limiting the density," said Humphrey, pointing out that the city, the state and the nation face difficulty raising tax revenue. "I think that people have got to realize that Alexandria is a relatively developed area. There are probably no annexing opportunities for Alexandria. I don't want to underutilize the resource of undeveloped land."

Humphrey's views will become increasingly important as the city continues its rezoning efforts. He called on developers and city officials to work together to provide adequate transportation. His views aren't likely to be received warmly by Alexandria civic activists, who have lobbied against concentrated development and the traffic they believe it brings.

"Traffic is going to come," Humphrey said. "We don't have any control over Fairfax County. As long as they grow, we will have traffic."

Humphrey acknowledged that his views might not be popular with certain activists. "There will be tough choices," he said. "I will vote the way I think I ought to vote, rather than the way someone thinks that I should vote."

He describes himself as a fiscal conservative. "I don't like waste, whether it's in my home or in my office," Humphrey said. Humphrey, who was born just after the Great Depression, spent his youth working on farms and can remember delivering groceries for $2.50 a day in Alexandria.

" . . . We should get all the government services that we pay for. But we shouldn't have to pay for government services we don't need . . . I think that Alexandria government is good government. I'm not coming in with a critical agenda . . . I don't have any agenda," Humphrey said.

Shortly after his selection for the council, Humphrey joked that he hoped he could "survive for six months" on the council. Earlier this week, Democrats were considering a change in the city's charter that would strip the Circuit Court of the authority to make council appointments.

"The political vibrations have not bothered me," said Humphrey, who served from 1954 through 1956 in the United States Army and is active in First Baptist Church of Alexandria. He said that although he believes that government should be responsive to the citizenry, "not having a political constituency" might turn out to be an advantage.