Lewis: an action-oriented trouble-shooter
Houston — A button-down businessman, or a farmer in overalls -- which is the real Andrew L. (Drew) Lewis Jr.? Ronald Reagan's choice for secretary of transportation is a little of both, and that many offer some explanation why the President- elect has taken a liking to the successful Philadelphia businessman who lives on a farm. Indeed, Mr. Lewis keeps in his office an authographed photograph of Mr. Reagan in a cowboy hat with inscription: "Dear Drew, how did a couple of farmers like us wind up in a fix like this?"
Lewis will, no doubt, see less of his farm in the future if he is confirmed, as expected, for the transportation post. His plans are to keep an apartment in Washington and spend weekends back in Pennsylvania, where baling hay and tending vegetables are his ways of relaxing. His wife, Marilyn, is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Off the farm, Lewis is characterized as a problem- solver with a pragmatic, business-style approach. He is action-oriented, likes to make decisions, and is not given to lengthy debates or philosophizing over problems.
Lewis should be in his element at the Department of Transportation -- one of the less visible federal agencies, but one that faces plenty of pressing problems. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Lewis signaled he would give priority to issues like the ailing US auto industry, the quasi-government Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), and mass transportation.
All three have in common a growing dependence on federal support -- a trend the Reagan administration would like to reverse.
The task will not be easy, but Lewis has built a business career as an effective troubleshooter. He has helped turn around several large companies in financial trouble and, since 1975, has run his own management consulting firm, offering similar services to troubled clint companies. Most recently, he served as a trustee in helping reorganize the bankrupt Reading Company after the firm's rail operations were taken over by Conrail.
Although Lewis has never held public office -- he lost a bid for governor of Pennsylvania in 1974 -- he has demonstrated considerable skill in political fence-mending. Brought in as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee by the Reagan forces last August, he was seen by some as the source of unavoidable friction with RNC chairman Bill Brock.
However, the trouble never materialized, and RNC staffers say the two worked together harmoniously through the presidential campaign.