Utahn Steve Studdert asked what day it was - he didn't know - to figure out how long he had been in charge of organizing President-elect George Bush's inauguration.
The one-time police chief of Brigham City, former Bountiful city councilman and former aide to Presidents Ford and Reagan has been working 20-hour days on the inauguration, so the days have started to blend together."If today's the 30th, then I've been working on this for two weeks. But it seems a lot longer," he said.
And he had just 51 days left until the inauguration to lead his army of 500 paid staffers and 30,000 to 35,000 volunteers in organizing and executing 14 events for hundreds of thousands of guests. Studdert's presidential inaugural committee coordinates all official inaugural events except the actual swearing in ceremony, which is planned by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inau guralCeremonies.
The long work days did not just begin when Bush appointed Studdert, 40, as executive director of the inauguration. Studdert had been putting in long hours asan adviser for Bush since the Republican National Convention last summer.
"From the convention, I traveled with him every day until the election," he said. "I was a senior campaign adviser for image and strategy."
In other words, he was one of Bush's much-publicized team that tried to control his image presented on TV and in newspapers. "My job was to see that the visual message Americans saw . . . was consistent with the thematic message of George Bush."
Studdert's long days may not be over after the inauguration either. He may be in line for a White House post.
"But when it comes up, and it has come up, I say, `let's talk about it after the inauguration.' I don't have enough brain cells left to focus on anything else," he said. But he adds - giving a hint about his plans - "My family plans to move back to Utah after the end of the Bush administration."
Changes in the building that houses the inaugural committee illustrate how fast things are moving with the inauguration. It is an old warehouse near the Navy yard on the banks of the Anacostia River.
"Two weeks ago, it was just a big open warehouse with nothing in it," Studdert said. "Now, we have walls, telephone and electric lines, computers, typewriters and offices. It is a beehive of activity everywhere you look. And there's usually a line of 15 people waiting to see me at any given time."
The committee has appointed chairmen in each of the 50 states to ensure every state has groups and individuals involved in some of the inauguration events. He said it is still too early to know which Utah groups may be involved as entertainers or in other capacities.
He said the sheer numbers involved in the events is staggering. "For example, just the inaugural ball will have 60,000 guests at a number of different sites." The inauguration ceremony itself will have 140,000.
But the quick organization for the inauguration has impressed some influential people. "I had the chief executive officer of a major Fortune 500 corporationin here yesterday. He said it's taken his company 50 years to grow and organize like we have in 10 days."
Still, Studdert said, "I wish we had started on this six months ago. But in our political system, you can't do that until you win the election."
Meanwhile, his post - plus his job as president of Commercial Consultants International and his calling as an LDS Church stake president - force him to beginmaking phone calls at 5 a.m., leave home at 6 a.m., make calls from his car phone on the way to work and begin staff meetings at 6:30 a.m.
He works all day, and tries to get home by 10 p.m. "But I still work the phones there until 1 or 2 a.m."
Studdert adds, "In most jobs you can let some things slide a week or two andtell yourself it won't matter. But in this job, I know that George Bush will be sworn into office at noon on Jan. 20 whether we are ready or not."
When asked why he was chosen to head the inauguration, he joked, "Because everyone else turned it down."
He added, "Really, I don't know why I was chosen. But it is an honor to have the vice president ask me."
But Studdert may be acting too modest. He was a long-time advance man for presidents Ford and Bush, arranging myriad details of their many trips. That's perfect training for arranging myriad details of an inauguration. And Studdert has had a long, close relationship with Bush too.
He remembers when it started. "I was in the room when the selection of George Bush was made as Reagan's running mate. I was also in the room afterward when President Reagan and George Bush had their first meeting."
Shortly after the election, Studdert was put in charge of arranging the details of a long trip by Bush to China and Japan. He became close friends with the Bush's while traveling with them everyday.