A Politician Moved By a Sense of Community

When John Astle ran for mayor of Annapolis in 1982, his campaign slogan was "Vote For John Astle...He Listens." The Annapolis Democrat lost that election by a narrow margin of 243 votes to Dick Hillman. It was perhaps a mixed blessing for John and the citizens of Annapolis because in the following year he ran successfully for the Maryland House of Delegates. In 1994, he was elected to the Maryland Senate.

John Astle continues to listen and work for his constituents. His political aspirations, however, came later in life after a distinguished career in the military.

Boyish in appearance and soft-spoken in manner, the West Virginia native decided early in life to enter military service. After graduation from high school, John enlisted in the Marine Corps reserves and did a tour of duty for six months before entering Marshall University. During college he spent several summers training at Quantico, Va., and, when he graduated, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Ten years of active duty as a helicopter pilot were followed by combat missions in Vietnam and as a pilot for President Nixon. He was shot down twice in Vietnam taking troops in and out of fire zones and, in one skirmish, had the control stick of his helicopter shot away from his hand. He recalls, "I said to myself, I don't want to be down there [in the firefight]. But when the time came, I took a deep breath and said I hope it's not today and did what I had to do for other Marines on the ground."

Beginning in 1971, his three-and-a-half-year experience flying for President Nixon was a highlight of his military flying career. "It was exciting and heady stuff for a 28-year-old kid," he says, "and President Nixon always came to the flight deck after we arrived at a destination and personally thanked us."

John stayed on active duty in the Marines until 1975 when he became a reservist, a status he maintained until his retirement in 1996 after 30 distinguished years. During the Persian Gulf War, he volunteered for active duty and served for five months during Desert Storm.

In the late 1970s, John took on a new full-time flying adventure with the Baltimore City Police Department often navigating through rough weather and in the wee hours of the night to transport injured people to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. The strenuous hours and time away from his family and home in Annapolis led John to reevaluate what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

One evening in 1981, John and a few friends were having a beer at Harry Browne's on State Circle. One of his friends suggested he run in the upcoming election for mayor. He responded that he didn't know the first thing about politics. But after more thought, the idea of running for public office engaged him. John knew he had good people skills and team-building abilities which he had learned in the military. He organized a group of supporters and went on the campaign trail in Annapolis. He won 60 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and, after losing the general election, he realized how much he liked the process and meeting people.

During his subsequent successful elections to the Maryland General Assembly, John made an effort to maintain a personal connection with his constituents. It is that personal loyalty that enables him to be a successful and effective legislator. "My approach to my elected position is solving problems for people," he says, "If people cannot get government to respond to individuals' problems or needs, I have a big stick and I can make the government respond."

John cannot fix every problem or address everyone's need, but his record of working with constituents is highly respected in the Annapolis community. "After all," he explains, "I am a citizen like everybody else and I am not isolated from the same issues we are all concerned about."

Together with other members of the District 30 delegation---delegates Mike Busch, Dick D'Amato and Virginia Clagett---Sen. John Astle has helped to build a coalition of teamwork in the Maryland General Assembly. "We feel we are stronger as a team because we are not speaking individually, but as a delegation. It's a team that prevails, and we work together to do what is best for the Annapolis district," he says.

As a second term senator, John is a member of the Senate Finance Committee and has served on the Subcommittee on Welfare Reform and the Governor's Task Force to Reform the State Personnel System. He chaired the Task Force to Reform Maryland's Credit Union Law and served for five years as chair for the Anne Arundel County Delegation.

He and his wife Jayne have been married for 30 years. They have two sons, Jay and David. Tragically, David was killed in an automobile accident several years ago. The Annapolis community gave overwhelming support to the Astle family during this time of loss and grieving. It was especially heartening to John who said recently, "Sometimes we get so busy we don't take time to realize that this is a community of people who really care about each other. If I could point to one thing, it's that I am part of this community. I belong here."


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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