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Baldrige a blend of East, West

After working nonstop for 21 days, Malcolm Baldrige had high hopes of taking a couple of days off earlier this month for his favorite pastime: cow roping in a big Denver rodeo.But he couldn't go, after all, because the President-elect had called a Cabinet meeting.

"I reassessed my priorities," he joked in measured words that come straight from his Nebraska upbringing.

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The news secretary of commerce neatly blends East and West. A business with impeccable Eastern credentials, Mr. Baldrige graduated from Yale University and, after World War II, went to work as a foreman in a Connecticut foundry owned by the Eastern Company.

He eventually rose to become president of that company and later moved to Scovill Inc., a Waterbury, Conn., manufacturing firm with sales of $1 billion a year. He has been both president and chairman of the board at Scovill and has served on a half- dozen boards of other major corporations.

But he has never lost touch with his Western roots. As a child, he "fell in love with horses and cowboys," says his sister, Letitia (Tish) Baldrige, A New York public relations executive who served as social secretary in the Kennedy White House.

As a teen-ager, he used to hire out as a ranch laborer, living in the bunkhouse with the other wranglers, she recalls.

Today he wears a Western belt with the requisite dark business suit, has kept horses and cows at his home in Woodbury, Conn., and several times a year goes to rodeos.

A longtime Republican whose father was s GOP congressman from Nebraska, Baldrige came to the Reagan administration through his association with vice-President George Bush. Baldrige managed Mr. Bush's presidential campaign in Connecticut and later helped spearhead fund- raising for the Reagan-Bush ticket.

At Scovill, which manufactures a variety of items, including Yale locks and Hamilton Beach appliances, he is paid to have had a low-key managing style. "He's not gabby," says a company spokesman, who adds that Baldrige dislikes long meetings, keeps tight fiscal controls, and relies on "finding good people and then giving them authority."

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The new commerce secretary's wife, Margaret Murray Baldrige, is active in civic affairs; she was the first woman to join her community's volunteer fire department. The Baldriges have two daughters, both graduates of Yale.

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