A Jan. 4 Metro article about potential candidates for the Alexandria City Council incorrectly reported the occupation of Matthew Natale. He is a civic activist and writer who works with nonprofit organizations. (Published 1/6/03)

One is a police officer who wants to add city budget expertise to a life of chasing criminals. Another is a civic activist who fell short in the last Alexandria City Council election and seeks a second chance. Then there's the owner of a local pub who is looking to serve up speeches as well as suds.

Those three Alexandrians -- all different in profession, age and political experience -- are but a fraction of the 18 residents who have declared they intend to run for City Council this spring.

All, including three incumbents, have filed statements of organization with the city registrar's office, the forms that declare an intention to raise money and start campaigning. And there could be more candidates on the way before the Jan. 15 filing deadline. Their quest: a chance to serve on the six-member council in this city of 130,000.

Longtime Alexandrians note that interest is higher than usual mainly because half the panel's seats are open.

"We have more candidates running now than I can remember," said Susan Kellom, chairwoman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee who has lived in the city for nearly 20 years. "I think people have identified that there are seats open and that they could have a chance to win."

In this heavily Democratic city, interest is so high among Republicans, that the party is having its first caucus in years to select a slate of candidates.

There are three open seats as council members William C. Cleveland (R) and William D. Euille (D) are vying to succeed Mayor Kerry J. Donley (D), and David G. Speck (D) is stepping down after three full terms. Independent Townsend A. Van Fleet is also running for mayor.

Incumbents Joyce Woodson (D), Redella S. Pepper (D) and Claire M. Eberwein (R) all are running for reelection.

With the three open seats, and a very good chance that the city will have its first African American mayor, the council could see some of its most dramatic changes in generations.

The May 6 election comes as the electorate grows increasingly angry about traffic congestion and how the city -- like many inner suburbs -- will manage in-fill development. Already, a vocal group of residents is pressing candidates to declare their specific platforms on commercial and residential development, open space and traffic mitigation throughout the city.

"I think we simply have more challenges than we've had in a while," said Kenneth R. "Rob" Krupicka, a two-time president of the Del Ray Civic Association who is a candidate to be on the Democratic ticket. "I think people are excited about that."

Krupicka is one of 12 Democrats, five Republicans and one Independent who are to be winnowed in February party caucuses, where six candidates from each party will be selected to run in the general election.

Several candidates are already on record opposing a controversial roadway that would connect the city's Eisenhower Valley to the rest of Alexandria. Most say they want to balance the concerns of neighborhoods with the need to encourage commercial development.

"We need to find ways of protecting neighborhoods," said Matthew Natale, a lawyer who wants a spot on the GOP ticket and who is a proponent of slower growth. "That should be our first priority . . . we need to preserve our neighborhoods at all costs.."

Veteran political observers said that urbanization and how to manage it will be the chief issue in the election.

"I think development is always going to be an issue," said Donley, who is stepping down after two full terms as mayor. "What's going to be important, though, is defining what some of these terms mean, whether it's 'smart growth' or sensible growth. To some, that means no growth; to others, it means managing the growth."