By Edward Walsh and Austin Scott President Carter appealed to the employees of two of Washington's largest federal bureaucracies yesterday to join him in an aggressive search for better ways to deliver government services to the people.
In separate appearances at the Labor and Commerce Departments, the President - who a few months ago was campaigning as the anti-bureaucracy Washington outsider - described himself as "your partner" in seeking ways to make government more responsive.
"I'm just one of you," he told more than 1,600 Commerce Department employees. "In a democratic government we ought to always remember that we'r nobody's boss. We're servants."
Carter's excursion into the heart of the bureaucracy was the latest in a series of carefully planned, high-visibility events that have marked the first weeks of his presidency.
Earlier, he addressed employees at the Justice Department and, according to White House press secretary Jody Powell, plans similar appearances in the next several weeks at all the government's Cabinet-level departments.
The President's appearances yesterday were very much in the developing Carter presidential style - a low-keyed blend of pep talk and fatherly advice, done without the traditional ceremonial fanfare surrounding a presidential visit.
He used the occasion, also, to reassure the federal employees that the government reorganization plans he has pledged to deliver will be developed with their help.
"We're not going to get off in a corner somewhere," he said at the Labor Department. To the Commerce employees, he said, "The changes in the structure of government will not adversely affect your own careers under any circumstances. If it ever does, you contact me directly."
More than 1,000 people, standing in the main lobby of the Labor Department building, greeted the President with squeals and loud applause when he appeared there. After delivering his speech, which included an exhortation not to fear change, he answered questions for about 25 minutes.
Carter drew applause at one point when he remarked "Just because a policy has been in effect for 5, 10 or 50 years, there is no reason to honor it unless it is the best policy."
In response to questions, Carter advocated government day care programs so long as they are not "too costly,' said he is "very serious" about reducing the extent and complexity of government regulations and called for "minimum regulations and maximum common sense" in such controversial programs as those administered by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
He also revealed that he has selected a woman to head OSHA, but did not identify her. The choice is reported to be Eula Bingham, an expert in the field now on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati.
Carter told Commerce Department employees their agency would be "affected very slightly" by his government reorganization proposals, which he has not yet made public.
He said the new "Department of Energy and Mineral Resources" he plans to create will include functions now performed by the Energy Research and Development Agency, the Federal Energy Administration and the Interior Department.
White House energy adviser James R. Schlesinger and Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus are "working very closely now" with each other and congressional committees to "decide how those divisions should be made," Carter said.
The President said he hopes to take the "seven major federal agencies responsible for elimination of sex and race discrimination" and consolidate them into one.
The Commerce Department, with women holding five of its 10 top jobs, is the best of all agencies in finding women for top slots, Carter said.
An aide to Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps said later the names of two of the women, an assistant secretary and a deputy assistant secretary, have not yet been announced.
In other developments yesterday, the White House announced that the President has selected Evan S. Dobelle, 31, a former mayor of Pittsfield, Mass., and one of his early campaign supporters, to be chief of protocol at the White House with the rank of ambassador.
Press secretary Powell also announced that Friday Carter will make his first trip home to Plains, Ga., since taking office, returning to Washington Sunday.
It is unusually early for a trip home by a new President, and Powell said Carter "just wanted to get back to Plains. He also said that while in Plains Carter plans "no public business" and will not comment on anything "short of a major national crisis."