Mayor William Stansbury, facing a broad-based campaign to force him from City Hall, circled his wagons a year ago, vowing to finish his term.

Since then, one by one, the wagons have deserted the lifelong Democrat and have joined the other side.

The Louisville Board of Aldermen, by a 10-to-2 vote, recently passed a resolution calling for Stansbury's resignation.

The Louisville and Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, which Stansbury headed for eight years before he became mayor, recently urged him to step down.

Five of the mayor's department heads have resigned in recent months, provoking questions about the mayor's effectiveness as an administrator.

Elected officials from both parties have urged Stansbury to quit.

A recent newspaper poll indicated that 30 percent of Louisville's voters think the mayor should remain in office, while nearly 50 percent believe he should resign.

In last spring's primary election, an aldermanic slate supported by Stansbury was crushed by an anti-Stansbury ticket, and among the losers were the mayor's only strong supporters among the incumbents.

And, last month, his wife filed for divorce to end their 33-year marriage.

Through it all, Stansbury has insisted that he will not resign, but finish his term, which ends in 1981.

Stansbury's troubles began a year ago, when he was absent from the city on the eve of a firefighters' strike. He said he had been in Atlanta on city business, but it was later disclosed that he had been in New Orleans with a female aide.

Stansbury made a public apology, saying he had lied about the trip to protect his family. The aide resigned. The mayor promised to cooperate with an aldermanic probe of the incident.

However, when the aldermen sought certain city records, Stansbury filed suit to block the investigation, triggering the legal controversy that has not been resolved.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals recently ruled that the aldermen have the authority to subpoena city records and summon witnesses, but the investigation remains blocked while appeals are pursued.

In July the removal effort was renewed after it was disclosed that Stansbury had made a trip to St. Petersburg, Fla., with the same former aide, and had charged some expenses to the city. Stansbury later claimed that reimbursement forms had been filed out in error, and repaid the city.

The aldermen are preparing for an impeachment effort.

Under Kentucky law, the impeachment process begins when five of the 12 aldermen sign articles of impeachment. The remaining seven aldermen then sit as a court to hear the proof, and may, by a majority vote, remove the mayor from office.

Six of the current aldermen have publicly expressed willingness to sign articles of impeachment against Stansbury, but they are waiting for the legal issues to be resolved.

A number of Democrats in Kentucky have joined Republicans in questioning Stansbury's ability to serve effectively as mayor. Under his leadership, they say the city has lost its ability to attract capable employes, and city government has lost the confidence of the people.

Among the first to call for Stansbury's resignation, more than a year ago, was Gov. Julian Carroll.

Other prominent Democrats have expressed concern that Stansbury's political problems could damage the chances of the party's nominee for governor, Louisville businessman John Y. Brown, who faces Republican Louis Nunn in November's election.

Even before the 1978 New Orleans incident, Stansbury was in political hot water for awarding city work to his friends and political cronies. He had appointed a supervisor of the city's firefighters and police who described his background for the job by saying, "I'm a good loyal Democrat."

He had awarded lucrative city legal work to another longtime friend and political supporter, and then was forced to rewrite the contract to get out of what an aide called "an embarrassing situation."

After his election, but before taking office, Stansbury, then a member of the Board of Aldermen, proposed a raise in the mayor's salary from $27,950 to $35,000.

And just after his election, Stansbury alienated many of his supporters by hiring Jacques LeRoy, an associate of former U.S. senator Vance Harke of Indiana, and referring to him as "deputy mayor," though no such office existed by law.

Stansbury is known for malapropisms. During the convention of the NAACP the mayor provoked chuckles by welcoming "the NCAA" to Louisville. Once, in response to a reporter's question, Stansbury said, "I'm a little hesitant to understand what you're saying."

Stansbury has charged that the aldermen who oppose him are politically motivated. In a recent message to the board, he urged, "Rise above the personal vendetta some of you hold against me. . . you are making moralistic, not governmental, judgments." He urged the aldermen to direct their energies "toward more productive efforts."