At 1:57 p.m. yesterday, nearly two hours after his successor took her oath of office, former D.C. mayor Marion Barry slipped out of the District Building for perhaps his last ride in the city-leased Lincoln Town Car.

Gliding through the quickly assembled crowd of friends, Barry waved his arms at the few reporters who had waited to witness the departure. "I'm not answering any questions," he told them. "I'm a private citizen now."

But Barry did stop to talk, to show off his new D.C. driver's license and to keep speculation alive about what he might do next.

His first stop, he said, is Miami. He declined to say whether his trip would be mainly business or pleasure, or -- for that matter -- whether he would be back soon. "I've got an open airline ticket," he said. Last month, the D.C. Council agreed to give Barry $45,000 to ease his transition from public office.

For Barry, yesterday's inauguration put him in familiar political surroundings but in a markedly unfamiliar position: just outside the spotlight.

He went to the inaugural prayer breakfast, the swearing-in of the D.C. Council members and the mayoral inauguration. He had one speaking part, a three-minute farewell that may be remembered as the first occasion in which Sharon Pratt Dixon was officially referred to as "Mayor Dixon."

"I want to thank all of you for your prayers, your faith and your steadfastness," Barry told the crowd.

The former mayor did some official business before his term ended at noon: he signed two pieces of legislation. One granted the council authority to review all contracts and leases worth more than $1 million. He had hinted earlier in the week that he might leave the decision up to Dixon, who has expressed concern about the measure. Barry also signed a bill limiting the city's authority to procure services without formal contracts.

Although Barry repeatedly found himself at the center of attention from friends and admirers, there was at least one personal moment. After the council ceremony, Barry and his wife, Effi, who arrived separately and sat apart, held hands and walked back to the mayor's office. Effi Barry has been living in a Connecticut Avenue NW apartment in recent weeks.

Barry started his day at 7:45 a.m., when his driver, a security guard and a former campaign worker, the Rev. Robert Hamilton, picked him up at his house in Southeast. A few moments earlier, developer R. Donahue Peebles, a close Barry friend, ducked into the rear entrance of the mayor's house.

Barry had sought to extend his police protection for six months, but was unable to win council approval. Police officials decided to provide protection through tomorrow, but only in the District.

Throughout yesterday, Barry was greeted by people who wanted to wish him luck and thank him for his public service. At one point, Barry said he was feeling "reflective, in terms of having been in public office for 19 years, and all the good things, and things not so good that have happened."

He said he also was feeling "a sense of joy that this day is here {and} a sense of sadness now and then, but no more than any other public official leaving office would feel."

What's he going to do now?


Barry was convicted of cocaine possession Aug. 10 after a 10-week trial. He was sentenced to six months in prison but is free pending an appeal of the conviction. The appeal is expected to take about a year.

Staff writers Mary Ann French and Rene Sanchez contributed to this report.