Upon Jimmy Carter's election, there was some trepidation voiced in Washington: What would be wrought by this impending onslaught of outlanders from Georgia? Unsure of their reception, the newcomers faced their own concerns: preserving their way of life, avoiding the pitfalls and sampling the pleasures of the city while conforming to the strictures of Jimmy Carter's Washington. After 100 days of the new administration, they seem to be managing, some say even liking it, as the following three transplanted Georgians testify.
Dorothy Padgett, occasionally known as "Carter den mother" for her work with the campaign Peanut Brigade, has a certain instinct for making people feel at home.
"It was the only thing I would have come to Washington for," she says of her post a assistant chief of protocol for visits. "When foreign dignitaries come for a visit, why not have them meet a Georgian first? After all, they have to learn to speak the language - they might as well meet a Southerner first thing."
Padgett hasn't been at the State Department for all 100 days.Until the beginning of March she was "just helping out" in various ways, mainly "helping Georgians who were visiting in Washington, or who had questions."
The wife of an Atlanta banker - who is still in Atlanta - and the mother of four, the youngest of whom is attending the University of Georgia, Padgett used to work for Mrs. Carter in Atlanata and describes herself as a close friend of Charles Kirbo, the Atlanta attorney who is one of Carter's most trusted advisers. She grew up in Douglasville, a small town "about 20 minutes west of Atlanta," and says she never had any doubts about "working with people," only about matters of protocol.
"One thing that really irritates me," she says, " is people saying 'protocol? - oh, am I holding my glass correctly?' Protocol had nothing to do with how you hold your glass, or with forks, or with anything like that. It's a matter of precedence, of how to treat people, how to address them, how to seat them.And you can believe there was no way that I wanted to be haphazard about this."
"I explained it to them," she says. "I told them, 'I might make a mistake, and I hope you'll forgive me - I'm new at this.' The pace has been fast, furious.Evan Dobel (Carter's chief of protocol) accused me once of saying 'Y'all' to some ambassadors, but I don't think I said that. He also said he party and have time to get lost and go over to the White House' at least once."
Padgett admists she's been "surprised" at how much she likes Washington, from "the green parkways" to helpful, hospitable" people. She will be renting the Georgetown house of Jean and Alfred Friendly this summer, and while professing ignorance of any "Washington social scene," says she feels at home in Georgetown. "I've met everybody! It's just like Saturday night back home. And I've been to some beautiful parties."
She lists the Friendlys and former Georgia Gov. Edward Breathitt and his wife Frances among her closest new friends. "One of the things I miss most up here is attending church," she says. "I've really gotten out of the habit. But now the Breathitts are encouraging me to come with them. They belong to a Methodist church, and I'm a Methodist."
Getting around in Washington hasn't been a problem, she says, what with cabs and official transportation. "I can't tell you how I get around most of the time - President would frown on it. But if I'm going to a party and have time to get lost and still get there, I take my own car - a Chevrolet, a family-size car. One Sunday afternoon I made three circles around McLean before I got where I was going, but at least I always ended up in the same place."
The biggest adjustment she's had to make during her first 100 days is a familiar one - "having to get up and move out every morning." She was accustomed to "getting up and reading the paper, or going outside and sitting in the sun." Now she may sometimes be found on the Friendlys' backyard tennis court at 6:30 in the morning before going to the office 8:30. Her week often begins on Sunday afternoon, and she's only been back to Atlanta once, when she caught a ride on the presidential plane on Easter weekend.
"It's been hard, getting used to a rigid schedule, but I really like it," she says. "My eyes just pop open in the morning."
Describing her former lifestyle as "rather casual - my wardrobe consisted mainly of jeans and riding clothes," Padgett says it's not the red clay of Georgian she misses most, but the time she could spend horseback riding. She's planning to join the well-known annual 100 Mile Ride on the grounds of beauteous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., this fall and hopes to find the somewhere to get in shape.
"Back home in Atlanta, I've got what we call a grade horse, named Tom-Cat.He looks and rides kind of like an Arabian. I really miss him - he's just like a 4-year-old child. And, she adds, in true den-mother spirit, "He may not want to do anything I want him to do, but I can make him do most anything I want him to."
The man didn't appoint a Georgia girl for nothing.?