First of a series on D.C. mayoral candidates.

She worked with monkeys in a lab of linoleum and brick called Building 9, gauging their reactions to light pulses, seeking data that might tell how man sees. For eight years, she tested and recorded her rhesus friends. Much of the time, she was alone.

Then, on fame's cusp and with no warning, she walked away from what she had trained all her life to do. "It was," said her old lab boss, Mortimer Mishkin, "a recognition -- and it was fortunate that it came -- that her soul was that of a social being, not that of an ivory-tower scientist . . . . More than anyone else I have ever met, she is truly a social animal."

Now, 11 years deep in a second career, Charlene Drew Jarvis has all the human contact she ever craved, pursuing the ultimate social position her home town can offer.

She wants to be mayor of the District of Columbia.

"We were terribly disappointed that she decided to leave, because her work was so important and so good," said Mishkin, chief of the laboratory of neuropsychology at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda. "{But} this gregariousness, this need to to be in contact with people, is real. It's hard to believe sometimes. But it's really real."

So it was that the neuropsychologist whose lab-mates once worried might founder in the sea of District politics has blossomed into one of its toughest infighters, steeped in government grit and campaign nuance, winner of the last four council races in Ward 4.

So it was the woman whose doctoral thesis was "Effects of Lesions of the Optic-Tectum and Tecto-Fungo Pathways in Pigeons on the Identification and Localization of Visual Stimuli" came to find comfort, not in Building 9 but in rallies, in hearing rooms and on the streets.

"Hey, Miss Jarvis! Hiya darling!" a man in a Cadillac yelled as Jarvis canvassed Kennedy Street NW recently.

"Talk Jarvis now," she often replied as she walked, using her right hand to mimic a puppet's jabbering mouth, slapping red, heart-shaped Jarvis campaign stickers on anyone who moved.

The ex-academic is so much the politico now that of the five candidates for the Democratic mayoral nomination, Jarvis is closest in technique and political savvy to the man they want to succeed, Marion Barry, some observers say. Watch her work a crowd, they say, watch her play this game.

"They're what you might call 'cut buddies,' " said AFL-CIO chief Joslyn Williams, meaning cut from the same cloth. "They're both the same type of political soul mates . . . {in} their style and their recognition and use of the levers of power. They both know its value and have no hesitation in using it."

But the ex-academic also is so much the politico now that there have come unsavory adjectives -- opportunistic, vindictive -- and unsavory questions about ethics. There is, for example, Woodrow Boggs Jr.

He was not a city official. He was Jarvis's adviser and longtime social companion. Citicorp paid him $60,150 in consultant fees when it CAMPAIGN '90 CANDIDATES IN D.C. was seeking legislation before the council Committee on Housing and Economic Development, which Jarvis heads. There were other Boggs incidents, too.

"Her albatross," said a member of the council who asked not to be identified, "is Woody Boggs, pure and simple."

Even her detractors, though, agree with her friends: Jarvis has brains and knowledge, wit and star power. "Mrs. Jarvis is an articulate, aggressive lady of color who is extremely intelligent {and} has a lot of pizazz," said council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who otherwise is one of her harshest critics.

What she doesn't have, Jarvis says, is the power that counts.

"I've got to be on the management side of government," Jarvis told a packed reception recently in a house in Northwest.

Jarvis has coveted that side at least since 1982, when she made a run for mayor just three years after entering politics, a step some politicians said bespoke unusual ambition and presumption.

She ran then, she said, because she had just left the health field and wanted to set health priorities as mayor. She is running now, she said, because she is tired of seeing her legislative programs shortchanged by bad management in the mayor's office. She wants to hire and fire, control the agenda.

To do that, Jarvis has crafted a campaign around a plethora of issues. She will personally lead the drug fight, she says. She will personally reduce the schools' horrendous dropout rate, she says. Her administration will be "child centered," she says.

Increasingly, she has etched the primary election as a choice between herself and front-running Democrat John Ray, an at-large council member. Ray will cater to developers and other contributors, she says. Jarvis will be for "the people," she announces, almost as if no other politician has ever tried to grab that mantle.

Another Jarvis pitch: her sex. "There's one difference between us in this race," she told the Northwest reception, referring to Ray, "and it's important, and that's the gender issue. I want to be mayor because women are used to cleaning up after men."

It is a line that always gets a laugh. It is a line, too, that implies the incumbent is leaving a mess to clean up. Yet Jarvis, who reportedly sought his endorsement (he never made one) and whose campaign has several key ex-Barry supporters, has been careful in her comments about Barry.

"I think the mayor has to be held accountable for allowing the merit system to falter, which I think has led to a demoralization of the professional staff," she said when asked about Barry's tenure.

At 49, she is the divorced mother of two sons, Ernest and Peter, both in their late twenties and living with her in a split-level home in Northwest. Her ex-husband is W. Ernest Jarvis, but evidently there are no hard feelings: He's working for her campaign.

There is no mistaking Jarvis, a tall, heavyset and imposing woman who wrestles with diets and is the first to make light of her size. Introducing her at the Northwest reception, the host said he had known her for years and it had been "a pleasure to see her grow." She quickly inserted: "Intellectually."

Most who know her offer these characteristics: funny, a talker, a spark in a gathering. "You get a group of people in a room and she's got charades going," said her older sister, Bebe Drew Price. "Big charades player. She likes to sit around a dining room table and question people, especially the kids."

She was the daughter of one of America's most famous black men, Charles Drew, a Howard University medical professor who is considered the creator of the modern blood bank and who died in an automobile accident when she was very young. Named for both her father and mother, Lenore, she was raised in what her sister describes as a home that did not want.

"We lived on the Howard University campus," Price said. "There were tons of opportunities for exploration, for outdoor stuff, playing on the grounds of the campus. We had swimming lessons, violin lessons, fencing lessons from a Hungarian instructor. We got to see all the symphonies and traveling choruses."

Summers were spent at a beach house south of Annapolis. College was spent at Oberlin in Ohio, then Howard for her master's degree in psychology, then Maryland for her doctorate. Jarvis said her family taught her that "if you have skills and abilities . . . you must use them in the public interest."

So she chose neuropsychology.

Although she says her father's career was "an inspiration," friends do not think she was trying to match his fame. At the National Institutes of Health, she explored how the mind analyzes images, how -- for example -- the eyes observe a person and the brain concludes it is someone familiar or unfamiliar.

So good was she that her data are being used today. One paper she presented at a convention in St. Louis was applauded, a rarity in the world of neuropsychology. But many of her days were spent in isolation, and immediate benefits to people were hard to see.

"Even if I had discovered everything I could about how the brain processes visual information," Jarvis said, "I could not have restored the sight of a blind person."

Politics provided more tangible results. Since making the switch -- winning a special election for a council seat in 1979, then three four-year terms -- Jarvis has won praise from many for her committee work. She has been endorsed by the Sierra Club. She has been endorsed by the District's gay organizations.

"The {housing and economic} committee and Mrs. Jarvis in particular have been very receptive to the cause of affordable housing," said Alice Vetter, a housing activist, while Pam McKee, a Northwest businesswoman, said, "When I pick up the phone and call her office, I have response beyond the call of duty."

Her greatest achievement, Jarvis said, is the 1985 Interstate Banking Act, which requires banks wishing to merge with District banks to provide financial assistance to the city's depressed areas, although a recent study alleged that six key bankers actually were investing only small amounts of mortgage money in poor neigbhorhoods.

Beyond that, council member Crawford alleges Jarvis cares little for the poor: "Dining with them, conversing with them -- that's not her," said Crawford, who supports Ray.

"There is a perception because of where I live and how I was educated that I do not understand the problems of people who live in persistent poverty or have raised families by themselves," Jarvis said. "My personal goal is to help lift this community out of persistent poverty."

There are complaints, too, that Jarvis often acts only when there is a political reason to do so. Ron Richardson, a union leader, said a labor-backed bill that would improve workers' compensation benefits languished in Jarvis's committee until this spring, when organized labor was gearing up to make mayoral endorsements. Jarvis replies that acting upon the bill then was an act of courage because she risked hurting her own fund-raising in the business community.

Above all, though, there have been financial problems, many of them tied to Boggs.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance found 35 violations of finance laws in Jarvis's 1984 council race and her 1982 mayoral race. Boggs was the chairman of both campaigns. She contended Barry was behind the office's probe because she was a threat to run against him in 1986. In the end, she paid a $10,000 fine for "technical irregularities."

In 1985, D.C. National Bank gave Jarvis a $5,000 unsecured loan and two $5,000 loans to Boggs at a time when her committee was considering legislation that would allow National's holding company to merge with Sovran Financial Corp. The bank did so even though she had an outstanding $11,391 judgment against her for failure to pay another loan. A Jarvis spokesman said then that it was "nonsense" to link the loan to her council position. Also in 1985, Jarvis told representatives of five banking institutions that if they wanted council approval to open or acquire banks in the District, they should see Boggs, who held no official position. One of the banks, Citicorp, eventually paid Boggs $60,150 for consulting.

Today, Jarvis blames Boggs for "an abuse of trust" and said she has severed all ties with him. He could not be reached for comment.

"Mr. Boggs improperly used his association with me to advance his own economic cause," she told a candidates forum in Shepherd Park. Jarvis also said that at the time she was "just acquiring skills" in politics and economic development.

To Williams, the labor leader, the Boggs association "raises questions about her judgment in appointing and selecting people." To lawyer Max N. Berry, one of her key supporters and Barry's former chief fund-raiser, Jarvis is being treated unfairly because she is a woman.

Those who allege she plays tough, Berry said, would consider that a virtue in a man. Those who say she acts only when there is political motivation, he said, frequently do so themselves. "That's about as American as apple pie and Chevrolet," he said.

"Why is she the only one that has baggage because she had a sleazy boyfriend?" he said.

"I've got to tell you," Jarvis said, "I hate the challenge to my integrity. I hate that, because I learned moral values as a child." But, she said, she has "no regrets" about leaving NIH, "as long as I can guide the ship of state here."

Someday? she was asked.

"No," she replied, "This time. This time."


Age: 49.

Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology, Oberlin College, 1962; master's degree in social psychology, Howard University, 1964; doctorate in neuropsychology, University of Maryland, 1971.

Work experience: Member, D.C. Council, 1979 to present; research psychologist, laboratory of neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, 1976 to 1979; staff fellow, laboratory of neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, 1971 to 1976; psychology instructor, Montgomery College, 1970 to 1971; supervisor, statistical laboratory, Howard University, 1965 to 1966; psychology instructor, Howard University, 1964 to 1965.

Civic and Professional Associations: Holds positions in many organizations, including vice president of the executive committee of the D.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross and board member of the Visiting Nurses Association, the Private Industry Council, Economic Development Finance Corp. and United Negro College Fund. Also a member of the League of Women Voters, National Council of Negro Women and Metropolitan Women's Democratic Club, among others, and a trustee of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Religious affiliation: Unitarian.

Marital status: Divorced, two sons.

Favorite book: "Gather Together in My Name," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Singin' & Swingin' & Gettin' Merry Like Christmas," all by Maya Angelou.


Rent control: Supports current law.

Taxes: She says that additional taxes are not the answer and that more efficient management of available resources is needed.

Work force: Says it must be reduced by attrition but cannot recommend a specific number until audits are completed.

Drug crisis: Proposed a six-point program that involves increased law enforcement; treatment "on demand" that includes follow-up therapy; and greater education of young people in ways to "make money legally."

Worker's compensation: Recently negotiated a policy acceptable to both labor and business .

Public schools: Pledged to reduce the 55 percent dropout rate during her first term. Wants other city departments to help solve social problems affecting the school system and would work with the school board in curriculum development.