They were, for Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb, unusually revealing comments. "I'm not a particularly easy person to work for in any way, shap or form." he told a group of reporters at a restaurant several nights ago. "I'm just a perfectionist . . ."
Few who watch the 43-year-old Democratic governor in action are likely to disagree. A sober, no-nonsense administrator, Robb marches through a hectic schedule of speeches, staff meetings and social receptions with the brisk efficiency and clipped pace he learned as a Marine Corps officer.
"I'm pretty demanding," said Robb, elaborating the next day in an interview in his small office on the third floor of the state capitol. "I expect people to work long hours. . . . I don't rant and rave. I don't think anyone has ever really heard me raise my voice or lose my temper or use language that you can't print in the newspaper. But I don't think there's any question that I can make my displeasure known."
Such is the executive style of the man who reigns over Virginia's state government. A resident of McLean, Robb is the first Northern Virginian to occupy the governor's chair since the departure in 1922 of Westmoreland Davis, a resident of Loudoun County.
Robb, more importantly, is a hot political property -- a moderate-to-conservative Southern Democrat and proven vote-getter, who, by virtue of his White House marriage to the daughter of former president Lyndon B. Johnson, was thrust into the national limelight almost two decades ago.
Accompanied whereever he goes by state troopers, besieged in public by curious constituents and inquisitive reporters, Virginia's governor lives very much the "fishbowl" existence of a political celebrity.
As Robb's own comments suggest, his daily routine is filled with political rituals and the tedium of what he calls the "nuts and bolts of state government." And as with many political figures, it poses a perpetual conflict between the demands of public duty and the obligations of private life.
A recent visit with Robb found him at Norfolk's Omni Hotel to announce a "We Have It Made in Virginia" business promotion campaign. An hour later, he was flying back in a state plane to Richmond for a round of office appointments. On the plane, there was little in the way of small talk or social pleasantries. Robb pondered newspaper clippings and the text of a speech he was to deliver at the State Police Academy, while Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis started out a window.
"There is no such thing as a typical day," Robb said, although his early mornings are fairly regimented.
He rises at 6:30 in the Executive Mansion -- a 170-year-old gray Georgian home on the Capitol Square where Robb lives with his wife, Lynda, his three daughters -- Cindy, 14, Catherine, 12, and Jennifer, 4 -- and the family's personal housekeeper, Viola Freeman. Breakast consists of a glass of orange juice, a bowl of Raisin Bran, raisin toast and a glass of milk. "I fix it myself," he said.
When the General Assembly is in session, as it has been for the past six weeks, Robb clears his calender of most appointments to make room for the the parade of legislators who want to see him on one matter or another. On a recent Thursday afternoon, for example, there was the Arlington delegation, which came to complain about the absence of Arlington representatives on the George Mason University Board of Visitors.
How many legislators must Robb see in a day? "It varies anywhere from a dozen or so up to a third of the General Assembly," he said. "It's a constant stream."
In the middle of the day, Robb breaks away for lunch at the mansion with Lynda, a meal the couple begins by holding hands in prayer. In the evening, Robb returns again, this time to read a bedtime story to 4-year-old Jennifer. Time for the family is always a problem, especially because Lynda, who spent her teens in the White House, never wanted her husband to run for public office.
"I'd like him to spend a lot more time with me alone and also with the family," she said.
Her advice to her husband? "Eat slower," she said: "Take some time everyday, 15 minutes uninterrupted with each one of us, without the television, without the telephone, without your newspapers."
From 9 p.m. to midnight, Robb is back in his small third-floor office in the capitol. The time is frequently used to meet with chief of staff David McCloud, Secretary of the Commonwealth Laurie Naismith or other top staffers, especially "those that don't have a family waiting for them."
But after a while, the staffers go home and Robb stays -- to read legal briefs, sign documents and return telephone calls. "Normally, after 10, I'm alone," said the governor.