Democratic National Chairman John C. White intends to recommend that the party turn its back on a decade of "reform" and give officeholders a far bigger role in party affairs.

White, meeting yesterday with Democratic governors in Annapolis, said he will propose that governors and members of Congress be represented on the DNC and automatically be made delegates to party conventions.

This would reverse more than a decade of efforts, promoted by party liberals, to "open" the party. The moves have seen the role of elected Democratic officeholders steadily diminish. White characterized his proposals a "correction," rather than the undoing of reforms.

In a symbolic move, White named North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., a moderate southerner, to head the party's delegate selection commission -- a post held in recent years by such northern liberals as South Dakota Sen. George McGovern and Minneapolis Mayor Donald Fraser.

White's words clearly impressed Democratic governors eager to fill the vacuum in party leadership caused by the defeat of President Carter and a host of Senate liberals last month.

However, a forecasted groundswell of support for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton to take over as national chairman failed to materialize. Clinton, defeated in November, said he isn't sure he wants the job. One reason: He thinks he'd have to make a four-year commitment to the job, which would preclude him from running for governor again in 1982.

Thus, the chairmanship race remains wide open. Other top candidates are Californian Charles Manatt, chairman of the party's national finance council, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Moon Landrieu. Brock Adams, the former congressman and transportation secretary, is an outside possibility.

The governors picked Brendan T. Byrne of New Jersey as their new chairman and Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. of California, who used to shun such jobs, as vice chairman.

What about Jimmy Carter? "His name came up in casual conversation," said Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes.