Proper and correct ceremonial forms and courtesies--commonly called protocol--are frequently seen as pretentious and pompous. Despite her title, Sandra J. Ausman, Los Angeles County's new chief of protocol, fits neither of these adjectives.
Sitting behind her new desk in the county Hall of Administration, she revealed she often brown-bags it for lunch, that she loves to shop by catalogue, that the vividly wild Karl Lagerfeld blouse she was wearing had been purchased on sale at Marshall Field in Chicago, that her gold earrings were fake.
'Shy in a Crowd'
"If I'm known for anything, I'm known for enthusiasm and a positive attitude," she said. But, if she has a weakness, it's shyness in crowds. "As easy as I am on a one-on-one basis with people, I am shy in a crowd, if I have to perform."
Shy, maybe, but not aloof: "I talk to everybody. I guess I am basically gregarious. I enjoy meeting people. Meeting people has never been a problem."
Margaret Paterson Carr was the first county protocol chief, a post created for her two years ago in order for Los Angeles County to have greater visibility during the Olympics.
When Carr resigned recently, the county supervisors selected Ausman, another Olympic and social activist, as her successor. During the Summer Olympics she had served on the executive committee of the Los Angeles County Host Committee. She had organized the Hospitality Center at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History for dignitaries attending the Olympics. Her husband is Sheldon Ausman, managing partner of the Los Angeles office of Arthur Andersen & Co., an international accounting firm with more than 200 offices in 50 countries. The company had underwritten many of the costs for the host committee.
Sandra Ausman, too, is a natural leader. She was co-chairing for the second year, by demand, the fund-raising Music Center Mercado. In 1981 and 1982, at her husband's request, she had chaired the activities for more than 1,200 partners' wives from all over the world when Arthur Andersen & Co. held its international partners' meeting in Los Angeles. And many of her innovations were incorporated into Olympics hospitality.
With the supervisors' blessing, she is now dividing her time between the Mercado and the protocol office, planning to zero in full time in June following the Mercado, which is expected to raise nearly $1 million for the Music Center.
Already, though, she's standing before the supervisors regularly, introducing new consular corps chiefs as they arrive in the city. She's initiated meetings with each supervisor. With her staff, headed by Ginger Barnard, deputy chief of protocol, and Yolanda Sanchez, special assistant, she is planning a major consular corps gala for spring.
And, she's immersing herself in procedures in her job, which is unpaid. "Protocol is a relatively new job description. It's only since 1969 that we accepted the Vienna Convention on consular relations and that we established protocol offices."
What are her goals?
"To involve more people," she said. "Margaret was incredible in organizing this office two years ago. Now we can expand, involving more people in being hosts and hostesses to out-of-town dignitaries and visitors."
That's only one of her responsibilities. As defined by the supervisors, the chief of protocol must also maintain an ongoing liaison with the consular corps and should work closely with the Economic Development Corp. in order to showcase the county to the international community.
Fortunately, for Ausman, there may be enough hours in the day. She's up at 6 every morning and goes to bed just before midnight. With rosy cheeks, she has a healthy glow. "It's my background. My mother was Finnish, my father Hungarian. I believe in vitamins." And she tries to take care of herself: "I've been to Pritikin four times."
As for her habits, "I spend very little time on myself; it takes me 30 minutes to dress--that's all the time I have for that." She's equally nonchalant about clothes: "I find myself choosing my clothes more wisely--I don't spend a great deal on clothes. I used to spend more. Now I wear moderately priced Anne Klein pleated skirts, which can go all day and night."
For jewelry, she no longer cares. "My good watches were stolen. My earrings are phony. I take them off when I'm on the phone, and I can't keep them two weeks."
After burglaries in her San Fernando Valley neighborhood, she launched a Neighborhood Watch among 30 homes. "I went door to door with my Xeroxes. Sheldon helped with the signs." It's part of her everyman attitude, never too haughty to initiate good deeds, get the work done.
Born in Chicago, she remembers a childhood with family chamber music groupings. Her father, who manufactures casket hardware and airplane seals, played the violin, and for an avocation played with the Chicago Theater of the Air. Her brother, now with the Milwaukee Symphony, was cellist. She played the piano and oboe.