The speaker, S. B. Kiger, secretary-treasurer of the Iroquois Rod and Gun Club of the Shenandoah Valley, got to the point quickly and bluntly.
"Don't fool with the Game Commission. The sportsmen of Virginia like it just as it is."
Kiger, joined by leaders of about 15 other sportsmen's group in the state, had come to a hearing at the State Capitol to protest a bill that would give the governor power to name the heads of all state agencies, including virtually independent ones like the Game and Inland Fisheries Commission, which raises most of its own money, sets its own policies and appoints its own executive director.
Such independence, a massive state-sponsored reorganization study concluded, has helped create an oversized government in Virginia that is often not accountable -- not even to its chief executive, the governor.
The bill Kiger and other sportsmen were protesting is perhaps the most important of a number of measures in the General Assembly this year aimed at achieving the main goal of the reorganization study: "A government in which officials can be held accountable for what is done or not done . . . They should be responsible for an end product."
The critics, they say, don't have any quarrel with the goal. They don't even have any problem, they say, with some of the proposed steps toward the goal -- like the bill giving the governor the power to appoint the heads of all agencies, boards and commissions for specific terms.
All they ask, they say, is that this agency or that commission be excluded.
"I've been constantly amazed," said Del. Willard R. Lemmon (D-Marion), a member of the reorganization commission, "that everyone looks at the report and says, "That's just great, but my agency is unique." Every special interest group wants to maintain its own set-up."
The fight over reorganization is not being waged along conventional battle lines of conservatives versus liberals.
One of the staunchest supporters of reorganization, including the appointment bill, is Common Cause of Virginia, a lobbying group that considers itself a progressive force representing citizen interests. But one of the staunchest critics of most of the current efforts is Del. Ira M. Lechner (D-Arlington), a liberal often associated with positions identified as progressive.
"I support reorganization," Lechner said, "but not these helter-skelter efforts. As my father used to say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"
He said the Commission on State Governmental Management, the source of many of the reorganization bills being considered by the General Assembly, has made proposals that are "simplistic" and "would make the governor into king."
Most of the bureaucratic growth in government cited by the commission. Lechner said, has occurred in the very agencies where the governor now has complete appointive authority. "There has been hardly any growth in the teeny agencies where the governor doesn't have such authority," Lechner said.
Before broad reorganization occurs, the Arlington Democrat said, there should be program evaluations and cost-effectiveness analyses at each department and agency of the state government.
Patrick M. McSweeney, executive director of the reorganization commission disagrees. "It's a grandstand play. We don't have any goals or objectives, so you can't have such evaluations or analyses."
McSweeney also disputes Lechner's contention that the commission's proposals are simplistic, contending that the group, which consists of 16 gubernatorial and legislative appointees, has charted reorganization that involves the well tested theory of management by objectives first espoused by Peter Drucker.
Tested or not, the commission's ideas will require some people to take a new look at the notion of politics. For some, political appointments mean cronyism and mediocrity.
But Virginia Common Cause's chief lobbyist, Judy Goldberg, disagrees. "I get very impatient with people who say they don't want politics intruding in the executive branch," she says. "Politics is simply the expression of the people. People who say they don't want politics really want to preserve special interests."
The question was neatly dramatized at a recent House General Laws Committee hearing on the bill, already passed by the Senate, 32 to 4, that would broaden the governor's appointive powers.
Charles L. Richardson of Chesapeake identified himself to Chairman Thomas W. Moss Jr. (D-Norfolk) as president of the Big Game Hunters of the Dismai Swamp -- "a group, Mr. Chairman, that has 2,000 members, many of them in the Norfolk area."
There was a knowing ripple of laughter among the audience, including members of the committee, who are up for election this fall. The suggestion seemed clear enough: Sportsmen are numerous, well organized and likely to punish at the polls those legislators who vote against the interests of hunters and fishermen.
But a few sentences later in his statement, Richardson was pleading for the committee to exempt the Game Commission from the bill "to save it from being politicized."
Like his fellow sportsmen, Richardson said the commission has an excellent reputation around the country -- why jeopardize that record by taking away from the 10 commission members the right to name an executive director?
McSweeney, of the reorganization commission, tries to avoid criticizing particular agencies even as he calls for drastic changes in how they operate. But he says of the Game Commission: "There's no question they're doing a good job representing sportsmen, but if you're talking about preserving and protecting the environment and wildlife, that might be something else."
Chester F. Phelps, executive director of the Game Commission, disputes charges that the agency is beholden to the sportsmen who pay the hunting and fishing license fees, which, account for most of the commission's $7 million annual budget.
"Look at our magazine, Virginia Wildlife," he said, "and you'll find articles in there every month on non-game subjects. You'll find art on birds, reptiles, butterflies,and flowers --
While the appointment bill has attracted a lot of attention, a number of other reorganization measures have advanced through at least one house of the General Assembly.
Among them are bills that would abolish the position of secretary of commerce and create two new secretaryships -- of agriculture and of natural resources -- create a new housing and community development department and require the governor to lay out priorities to help eliminate cross-purpose efforts among government agencies.
While McSweeney says, "I'm plesed with what we've gotten so far," he adds: "I was appalled by the killing of several bills." Among those was one taking the consumer affairs office out of the Agriculture Department and putting it in a new Commerce Department.
Also killed was a bill that would have created a department of enforcement and investigation -- "the supercop agency," as it was derisively called by Del. Lechner.