After the glamor government years of Charles S. Robb, Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles is moving quickly to show he will be far more involved in the daily risks and details of running state government.
Baliles, inaugurated just a week ago, jumped to a quick start as governor by proposing an overhaul of the state's vast transportation system, startling some people with his willingness to get out front on the controversial issue, in stark contrast to Robb, who preferred to build consensus privately before taking public stands.
"Jerry came blasting out of the starting block," said state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). "He's going to be an extremely innovative and an extremely dynamic governor. The bombshell on the roads is the tip of the iceberg."
Several observers compared Robb, whose political celebrity status as the son-in-law of President Johnson brought unusual attention to the state, to a corporate chairman of the board, directing policy but remaining aloof from day-to-day details.
Baliles, they say, with an 18-year government career as a lawyer, legislator and state attorney general, is more a chief operating officer, comfortable with his intimate knowledge of state government, including second- and third-level department heads who never quite knew Robb.
Others mentioned Baliles' open-door policy with legislators and cabinet members and his seeming willingness to negotiate peace between the usually warring urban and rural factions of the legislature as examples of his style.
Baliles, 45, who campaigned closely with Robb as the rightful heir to Robb's fiscally conservative but socially progressive policies, is more amused than irritated that many have said he will have to fight to avoid an image of simply being a "Robb II" governor with little innovation.
"I tell people to go back and read" the campaign literature, Baliles said during a midweek reception at the governor's mansion.
"On the day I take office, I will have my administration begin preparing a comprehensive transportation plan," declared the Baliles campaign blueprint that was issued last spring.
The document promised quick and decisive action on the environment and corrections and additional education initiatives, but Baliles is leaving details of those areas to later in his term, aides said.
Some observers contend that Baliles' is a high-risk strategy that could hamper his administration if he fails to get substantial support for his highway initiative.
"That's bunk," said Saslaw, who said every legislator wants more road money. "I don't see him losing it."
Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, touching bases here this week with the county's legislative delegation and lobbyists, praised Baliles' call for a special session to deal with transportation problems.
"He decided he could only cook two eggs in this first skillet the biennial budget and education funding , so he put his third egg transporation aside," said Lambert. "It was a decisive move. It got the legislature to focus on the problems."
Baliles' view, as expressed at his first news conference this week, is that he has no desire to be a "no-risk" leader. "If solutions to the highway problems were simple, they would have been solved a long time ago.
"There is a limited amount of time to carry out programs," Baliles said. "I intend to move as quickly as possible." Under Virginia law, a governor cannot succeed himself.
Baliles said that he has gone over the campaign promises he made running for attorney general in 1981 and determined that "I kept 98 percent of the promises." He said he welcomes the challenge of the news media and critics calculating his batting average as governor, saying, "I like high scores."
Republicans, who have berated themselves for giving Robb "a free ride" during most of his term and vowed not to do the same for Baliles, are not rushing to criticize the new governor in any area.
"You've got a governor who presently appears to be primarily interested in running the state as opposed to using the state" for political purposes, said GOP Del. Thomas M. Moncure of Stafford County.
Moncure's comment referred to a widespread belief that Robb is using his residual popularity as governor to run for national office.
Baliles "has started major new initiatives," said Republican state Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell of Alexandria, "but how well he will do remains to be seen . . . . You've got to judge a governor on his performance and not his rhetoric."
Several Democratic legislators agreed that Robb personally was much more cautious than is Baliles, but they said Robb was the first Democratic governor of Virginia in 12 years and had to prove first that the Democrats could be trusted to run the state.
His style "may have been the result of the times," said Del. W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. (D-Richmond County). "Robb laid the groundwork . . . for the new governor to be bolder."
Murphy, who represents a rural area, said he believed that Baliles will get credit for trying to ease urban-rural tensions in the fast-growing state. "He is making a conscious effort to mitigate the degree to which urban and rural areas war with each other . . . . I think that's long overdue."
David K. McCloud, who has the unique vantage point of serving as Baliles' chief of staff, the position he held in the Robb administration, is reluctant to compare his current boss with his former one, but he agrees with assessments that Baliles "hit the ground running." McCloud, too, attributes Baliles' fast start to his familiarity with the territory.
And while McCloud will not talk about it, one key difference between Baliles and Robb is the operation of the governor's offices on the third floor of the State Capitol.
Baliles already has signaled his willingness to keep an open door, not only to legislators, but also to his cabinet secretaries, who during Robb's term were largely routed through McCloud, whose doorkeeper role for Robb often angered other officials.
One of Baliles' first executive orders was to remove McCloud's authority over the cabinet.
McCloud, the first major appointment Baliles announced, was retained, some say, largely to minimize the many snags and glitches of any new adminstration, and he may not have the clout with Baliles that he had with Robb.
McCloud, sometimes characterized as a brusque and distant bureaucrat, still wields power through his ability to control much of the paper work of the governor's office and his knowledge of state government.
Many say they believe, however, that after helping to steer Baliles through this session of the legislature, McCloud will leave the administration this year to pursue private business interests he had begun to seek out before accepting the Baliles appointment.
McCloud, a former director of the state personnel office, has said only that he will remain as long as Baliles wants him.