Some people see humor in other people's misfortunes, but Alayne Peterson doesn't. She could probably find humor in her own toothache, though.
Not only has she gained a reputation for hard work and dependability while working for Gov. Mike Leavitt, but also for her wit and lighthearted demeanor. "It pays to have a sense of humor in my job," said Peterson, who is Leavitt's administrative assistant and scheduler. "I try to lighten things up. It keeps things in perspective."Peterson, who schedules all business activities for the governor, including meetings, luncheons, conventions and speeches, said her job can be stressful because of the "high stakes" requests she receives to meet with the governor. The sheer volume of inquiries, ranging from 50-60 every week, can try the patience of even the most long-suffering soul.
Every request is evaluated and receives a response, she said.
"One time the governor got a request to join in a pig-kissing contest," she said smiling. "No, he didn't participate in that, but they still got a letter from us."
"Virtually every call that comes in is an `emergency' to that caller," Peterson said. "But they don't know about the call that came in just before them that was every bit as urgent to that person. Their issue is the most important issue."
Peterson, who sometimes works until 10 p.m. or later, takes her job, but not herself, very seriously.
"This job is a positive experience and I have a good time doing it," she said. "It pays to have a sense of humor and a boss and staff that lets me use it."
Peterson's contagious cheerfulness is not the only attribute that helps her with her job, according to Vicki Varela, Leavitt's deputy for community affairs.
"It takes a special personality to juggle all the things she has to juggle," Varela said. "Not only does she have a fun personality, she's hard-working and a very creative scheduler."
She said Peterson occasionally will schedule time for someone to confer with Leavitt during traveling time on an airplane or in his car while en route to another appointment.
Peterson said she also occasionally has to schedule herself to go on trips to consult with Leavitt.
"I've flown with him to southern Utah, driven with him to the airport, Park City, anywhere to fit it in." she said. "He's a busy governor and constantly on the go. He wants to see everyone, do everything. That's where creative scheduling comes in. I do whatever it takes to make his schedule work with the least amount of stress or inconvenience."
She said Leavitt started a midday walking program up City Creek Canyon, and on one occasion "he didn't have time for a meeting and asked me if the person wanted to walk with him during his lunch hour. The man said `sure' and it worked out nicely."
Leavitt recruited Peterson from Arlington, Texas, where she was living when the governor was elected. She is a native of Gunnison in Sanpete County and worked for Leavitt's father, Dixie Leavitt, in his insurance business and for his unsuccessful campaign for governor in the 1976 Republican primary. That is where the Leavitts discovered Peterson's dedication to hard work and her ability to dispel tension.
"I've known his (Leavitt's) family for a long time," Peterson said. "When I came in from from Texas in December 1992, the staffers took me directly off the plane and immediately put me to work. I've been working for the governor ever since."
Varela said Peterson has "clever" ideas for controlling the staff.
"You know you're in trouble when her heels start tapping on the wooden floor," she said. "You know that time is running out."
She said Peterson has a love for chocolate.
Peterson lives in Salt Lake City with two sons, Brady, 23, and Drew, 13. She also has a 26-year-old son, Alan, living in Fort Worth, Texas.
"He's married and going to make me a grandmother for the first time," she said beaming.