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.
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
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
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,"
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
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."