D.C. Council member Frank Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1), while denying that his bill to limit the terms of mayors is aimed at Mayor Marion Barry, said yesterday that he thinks it's time to start thinking about new political leadership in the District.

Smith's bill, cosponsored by nine council members and introduced with little advance notice Tuesday night, drew mixed reviews yesterday as city politicians sought to sort out its implications for the city and Barry, who would be limited to one more term under the measure.

"I think it's all right for us to say it's time to start thinking about new leadership," said Smith, a longtime Barry friend, coworker in the civil rights movement and frequent ally of the mayor's District politics.

Smith said Barry skillfully guided the city through its "embryonic democracy" but suggested city politics has stagnated because of the mayor's control of the machinery of government and that it may be time for someone else to tackle problems such as drug abuse, housing and other critical issues.

Although Barry has not commented publicly on the bill, senior aides to the mayor complained the bill inevitably would be seen as anti-Barry, coming at a time when he is facing federal investigations of his administration and problems with city personnel and services.

"It could take on a life of its own," said one aide to the mayor, suggesting that the move could embolden Barry rivals who have laid low. The Democratic mayor, who began his third term in January, would be permitted to run again in 1990 under the bill; future mayors would be limited to two terms. There is now no limit on D.C. mayoral terms.

Veteran aides to council members also suggested the bill represents a tentative step by council members to distance themselves from Barry during a difficult period.

"There's a tendency to lump everybody in the District Building together," one aide said. A former council aide said that, should Barry fall, "they don't want to go down with him. They want to distance themselves from him."

Others criticized the proposal as an unwise political shortcut. "I'm shocked about the thing," said businessman John W. Hechinger Sr., the District's Democratic national committee chairman. He complained that "you don't legislate out the {incumbent} . . . It does indicate a lack of confidence in {the council members'} own political ability to challenge him."

"It's almost an attempt to try to think for the voters," said Frederick B. Abramson, a prominent District lawyer. "I understand the other side -- {fear of a} powerful machine -- but I think that is not giving credit to the ordinary voter . . . . When people in this jurisdiction get tired of Barry, he is going to go whether he thinks he has a lifetime job or not."

Smith acknowledged the potential for a political backlash against him if his bill is seen primarily as a "get-Barry" measure. "I will be curious to see what happens. I think most people will be willing to talk about it. In some sense, I may be the fall guy," he said.

Smith said he talked privately to Barry about two weeks ago before drafting the bill. He said the mayor did not oppose the measure but did question its timing.

"I thought about delaying it . . . but then, we don't know what's coming next," Smith said. "I don't think Marion wants us to be held hostage to {the federal probe}. He is saying he is going forward with running the government. The rest of us should be the same way."

Council member John Ray (D-At Large), who many believe is planning to run for mayor in 1990, is a cosponsor of the measure, but Smith failed to get the support of two other potential candidates -- Council Chairman David A. Clarke (D) and council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4).

Ray said he has long supported a two-term limit, saying he had promised during an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1978 not to serve more than two terms. Ray, who said he is concentrating on reelection to the council next year, said he would support a limit of three terms for council members.

"I think the {Smith} bill is good," Ray said. "I don't think it's a slap at the mayor . . . . The mayor can run again."

Jarvis said she would await public hearings on the bill before deciding whether to support it. Clarke said he would back a limit only if it is approved in a referendum.