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Spotlight >> The Powers Behind the Throne: Heather Harradine/The (Boise) Idaho Statesman

“Always try to anticipate what happens next, but know that anticipation rarely meets reality.”

Spotlight feature photo
Heather Harradine, The (Boise) Idaho Statesman
Photo by KIM O'CONNOR/The (Boise) Idaho Statesman

Mice, men and administrative assistants all know what happens to best-laid plans.

“You’ve coordinated tomorrow; tomorrow is going to work out great. And then you get a phone call.…” commented Heather Harradine, administrative assistant to Idaho Statesman Publisher Mike Petrak. “Or a county commissioner shows up in the lobby and the whole day’s schedule has to be scrapped.”

Harradine, who has worked at the Boise paper for the past three years, is about to experience her third change in the newspaper’s corporate ownership. She has already worked for two publishers. But none of that fazes her.

“No matter what the industry, the job of administrative assistant seems fairly consistent,” she said. “Always try to anticipate what happens next, but know that anticipation rarely meets reality.”

Whether it’s a change in publisher or a change in ownership, she said, “One of the skills of an administrative assistant is to be able to go from one person with a completely different way of running an office to the next person” without compromising efficiency.

“A good administrative assistant is very much like a partner,” said Petrak, her boss. “Heather is the eyes and ears of the organization. She helps me keep connected and prioritized. She puts things in front of me that I wouldn’t ordinarily hear about and tells me about events that are happening within the building that I should go to. She knows what I should be doing each day. I would be less effective and less efficient by a longshot if it weren’t for her.”

Harradine honed her skills during 17 years at TRW, a California aerospace company. One big difference between that job and her job now: “In the aerospace industry we were protected from the public. Here, we’re open to the public.”

What is interesting to her, she says, is how personally people take what happens in the newspaper. “A call can be someone praising the paper or complaining about the paper, she said. “But it’s always very personal: ‘This offends me’ or ‘This excites me.’ ”

By contrast, an assistant can never take a call personally, she said. “I have to make someone feel that whatever their comment is, it’s important, no matter how I feel about it.” And she succeeds, Petrak said. “I get phone calls from people all the time who have told me that in their dealings with Heather she is so professional and represents me and the paper so well.”

After three years at The Statesman, Harradine is still in awe of what is often called “the daily miracle” of putting out a newspaper. “In the aerospace industry, it took years for a project to get off the ground. Here, you’re putting out a different product every single day.”

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