Two Guys On the Rise

If, as some suggest, politics is actually a contact sport, then two Annapolis residents and members of the District 30 delegation representing the greater Annapolis area have certainly prepared early in their careers for the challenges ahead. Mike Busch has always been a jock. He played football at St. Mary's High School and later starred for Temple University. (Bill Cosby also played football for Temple, but his hilarious version of the game is very different from Mike's.) Herb McMillan points to his rugby days at the United States Naval Academy as preparation for much to come later in life. All you have to understand about rugby is the slogan on the t-shirt so many players wear: "Give blood---Play rugby."

Mike, a Democrat, has been a member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1987 and his colleagues have recently elected him to become the new speaker of the House, replacing Cas Taylor of Allegheny County who was narrowly defeated in the November election. Mike describes himself as a "centrist" and, according to an article appearing in The Baltimore Sun in June, 2000, "has emerged as a star in the House of Delegates. He chairs the House Economic Matters Committee, a hotbed of special-interest bills, high-powered lobbyists and intense political bloodbaths over issues such as insurance, education, health care and banking." The Sun went on to laud Mike for his fair handling of controversial bills, his grasp of the issues, his determination to find a middle ground and his refusal to let lobbyists influence his decisions---and this was written more than two years before the November 2002 election.

Herb, on the other hand, served as the Republican alderman from the 5th Ward on the Annapolis City Council for four years and was successful in his first bid for the House of Delegates by defeating incumbent Dick D'Amato in what many consider to be a major political upset. When he announced his candidacy on May 1, 2002, Herb said the District deserved independent and balanced representation, fiscally responsible and committed to individual empowerment, all qualities he championed while serving on the Annapolis City Council. One thing friends and foes alike already know about Herb, he speaks his mind and doesn't mind controversy, particularly when he considers the subject to be a matter of principle. He is very proud of his progressive leadership on the Council, where he introduced and passed three property tax rate cuts to help working people and retirees keep more of their money. He also sponsored and passed a voter I.D. law to prevent election fraud, something he thinks should be adopted statewide.

Both men were asked a series of questions, and it was uncanny how often their responses were similar. For example, when asked why they got into the rough and tumble of elective politics, both said they viewed it as an extension of their civic and community involvement. Mike was a teacher and coach (Herb's wife, Kathy, was one of his students), and having had the opportunity to work with so many parents, he thought he had good insight into what people consider to be important. He remains concerned about how government actions affect the quality of life of Marylanders. "Ultimately, government must work for the people," Mike says, and he has worked for 16 years to make that notion a reality. Herb served as a board member in his Hunt Meadow community and worked on several issues which eventually had to be resolved with and through government. He says many of the issues which affected his community were much the same as other neighborhoods. During the campaign, reduction of taxes and fees, the ending of open-air drug markets, and badly needed government reforms became recurring themes. He says he feels "obligated" to address the questions he discussed while running for office, and he says he'll work hard to stay true to community needs.

We sometimes hear about "jaded politicians" whose views change greatly once comfortably ensconced in office, but that's not the case with these two. Their views of public service have not changed from the core values they both started out with. Herb's mother used to tell him, "Service is the rent we pay for our room on earth," and he has dedicated much of his life to that philosophy. He sees politics as a way to make important changes, not as an end unto itself. Mike, as a child of the '60s, was molded by the civil rights struggle, Vietnam, Kennedy and King. "Society underwent changes in an effort to build a better community," Mike recalls. Therefore, he constantly questions what government can do to help people help themselves in building a better life.

When asked, "Did the voters send a message in the November election," both men smiled, but one suspects for different reasons. Mike says the voters send a message in every election, and this one was no exception. "They want government to address their needs and to conduct themselves appropriately when it comes the issues," Mike says. Herb was much more direct. "The deficit is the result of uncontrolled growth of the budget. Voters want us to bring state spending under control, reduce the tax burden, and promote programs that are effective," he says.

Both agree the biggest challenge for the upcoming legislative session will be dealing with the budget, and both agree that "quick fixes" are not the answer but what will work best in the long run for the people of Maryland. Mike sees lots of hard work and, yes, some pain in an effort to insure that Maryland remains one of only seven states with a AAA bond rating. "We need to review every program and see if some could be passed on to the private sector, the non-profits, or to another governmental body," he says. Herb thinks we need to rely, to a greater extent, on "freedom and individual empowerment" and less on government. "Prosperity is not a gift from government; it comes from free enterprise and the hard work of our families who should be entitled to keep more of the money they earn," he says.

Mike and Herb are quick to credit those closest to them for providing them with the help and guidance they need when making tough decisions. Mike particularly singles out Sen. John Astle as one who has helped throughout his career. "I simply could not have done this job for the past 16 years without John; he's more than a mentor, he's a true friend and great inspiration," Mike says. "I do admire Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan as leaders who stood on principle and led change, but I am constantly inspired by my family, friends and neighbors who have always been there when I needed them," says Herb.

When Mike takes up the gavel as the new speaker of the House and Herb takes his seat as a freshman delegate with big ideas, we will watch these two guys with interest over the 90-day legislative session. Much like a football game or a rugby match, Mike and Herb will get---and probably give---some bumps and bruises along the way. As the session's last bell rings, we can but hope that they have remained true to their principles, compromised when the need arose, and worked in the best interest of all of us who so love this city and state.


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Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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