The Carter administration is hoping to get Evan S. Dobelle cleared, named and confirmed as Chief of Protocol in time for him to handle the state visit of the president of Mexico, which begins Feb. 14.
All that's holding up formal announcement of the former Pittsfield, Mass., mayor's selection is completion of a routine FBI check, according to Frank Moore, President Carter's congressional liaison chief.
"The nomination is going to be sent (to the Senate)," said Moore, who ran into political buzzsaw earlier by failing to first check the suitability of Dobelle's appointment with some powerfull Massachusetts Democrats.
Among them was House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill, who protested "the politics of the thing," principally Dobelle's former Republican party affiliation. An O'Neill spokesman said yesterday, however, the Speaker would not interfere and that, in fact, O'Neill had been getting "good cooperation" since the flap erupted over Dobelle and another Carter administration selection, Republican Elliot L. Richardson as Ambassador-at-learge to the Law of the Sea Conference.
But yesterday, Dobelle was still in Boston working as Commissioner of Environmental Management, and commuting the 2 1/2 hours each way between there and Pittsfield - which he twice served as mayor.
Dobelle's nomination for the $39,900-a-year State Department post vacated last week by Shirley Temple Black is what Moore has called a "personal" one on the part of President and Mrs. Carter. They became close friends with Evan and Kit Dobelle during the campaign. Dobelle acted as Carter's advance man at the Democratic convention while Mrs. Dobelle assisted Rosalynn Carter and the family there and later traveled with daughter-in-law Caron Carter.
Unlike previous Chiefs of Protocol, Dobelle is young (31) and decidely not wealthy, and has never once, he said, stepped inside an embassy.
"But I love meeting people, and if it's to be at parties, so be it," he said in a telephone interview. "Kit and I see it as our being extensions of Carters to the diplomatic corps, and seeing to it that chiefs of state are well taken care of when they come. It's a challenge for us to meet different people from different cultures. Hopefully, after they invite us because I'm Chief of Protocal, we'll be reinvited just as friends. I hope the diplomats will be our friends, that they'll come over to our house for dinner."
Dobelle and his wife live in a lakeside house in Pittsfield, which they plan to keep while they are in Washington, and when they entertain it is "eight or 10 friends over" for homecooked and home-served dinners.
"I've never given a cocktail party in my life," he said. "I enjoy going to them, but I don't enjoy being the host, because you never get to talk to anybody. By the time you're free to talk to people, they're ready to go home."
He is ready to do whatever official entertaining is required, but I honestly don't know yet what must be done. I've never done grand entertaining and I don't expect that I will," he said. In the sense, he said, he expects to follow the Carter style.
Described by Moore as "more informal, younger and simpler" than most of the previous holders of the protocol job. Dobelle's lack of independent wealth to do the type of entertaining once thought essential is another indication of the Carter "Style."
"There will be a lot less entertaining," said Moore.
Dobelle, whose father is a doctor, was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Pittsfield and Florida. A graduate of The Citadel, he has a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has completed some of the requirements there for a doctorate in education.
He taught government and education at Passadena City College, the University of Massachusetts, California State University at Los Angeles and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
He also worked for Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, former Sen. Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and former Gov. John Volpe of Massachusetts - all Republicans as was Dobelle until he joined the Carter campaign early last year.
Handling an appointive plum like Chief of Protocol at a former Republican from Massachusetts, bypassing Democrats completely, prompted some complaints from other powerful Massachusetts Democrats like Rep. Edward P. Boland.
Moore said his response had been simple: "Most of the true believers are the converts."
During the time when Dobelle worked in Washington, he also took courses at the American University. And his wife, the former Edith Huntington Jones of Hamden, Conn., worked for Scott before their marriage and was deputy director here of the University Without Walls.
Mrs. Dobelle once ran for a small office in Suffolk County "because she wanted reform, and the party machinery there had never been challenged," her husband said. She lost, "but she got 40,000 votes."
Pittsfield, where they live, has a population of 56,000. Dobelle is president of the local B'nai B'rith Lodge, a member of the board of directors of the local Lion's Club and chairman of the board of advisers of Berkshire Community College.
He describes himself as "an average home owner" there, and lives on his salary. "If I were looking to earn money, I don't think government would have been the place to look for it."
And as for protocol having been a rich person's job, he said, "It's not going to cost me any more than I can afford."