District 38B Profile: Incumbent Conway touts influence

Norm Conway was 8 years old when he first took an interest in public service.

A newspaper carrier for the old Salisbury Times, he often talked to Mayor Rollie Hastings, who was in office from 1950 to 1958.

“He was like a grandfather to me. He always treated me like family. I wanted to be just like Mr. Hastings,” recalled Conway, 72, who’s running for another term as Maryland delegate, representing District 38B.

Norm ConwayA Salisbury native who had a long career as an educator, Conway said if he’s re-elected, he’ll begin his 29th year as delegate working on revitalization with Mayor Jim Ireton and City Council President Jake Day.

“I’ve always felt, even when I was on the city council, that we had too much land downtown under macadam. And you can’t get too much revenue from a parking lot. You have to have offices and a whole combination of uses,” he said.

Conway would like to see expansion at industrial parks and companies “bringing in jobs technology,” he said.

“We have a lot of the infrastructure already in place,” he said.

He favors expansion of Chesapeake Shipbuilding. “We are the second largest port in the state and we need to act on that,” he said.

He didn’t hesitate to run for another term.

“I’m the only rural chairman of the standing committees in the House. It’s a unique positon to be able to be a voice for the rural areas of Maryland. I find it a fascinating opportunity to be at the table and be able to assist with major issues and projects that are going to go back to areas across the state.

“I really, strongly  believe in a One Maryland concept, that wherever you are in the state, if an individual county has a problem, it becomes the state’s problem and we all need to help them with it,” he said.

Conway grew up embracing the idea of community service.

“When I was in school, all my teachers always encouraged us to do our very best. All I ever heard was, ‘You need to give back to your community in any form or fashion you can.’ I’ve done that. I was with the fire department, at Station 2, for many years. I just had 51 years and I had 30 very active years.

“I always found that to be very, very fascinating. People with whom you serve, I mean, they were great. You had someone in that fire department that could do just about anything. So if you had a car problem, you could find a mechanic,” he said, laughing.

Conway’s long political term began  in 1970, when he was elected to the State Central Committee. He was a Salisbury City Councilman from 1974 to 1986, and delegate since 1987.

His career began as an elementary school teacher and he was also vice principal, principal and  supervisor.

But as enthusiastic as Conway is about serving, he was disheartened by a recent mailing depicting him behind bars and wearing a burglar’s mask.

“They made a very negative statement. This is the worst campaign I’ve ever seen. It’s just ugly and it’s hard to believe,” he said.

“In everything I’ve been involved in, I have always taken the high road and I have no intention of doing otherwise. When I get to a point where I feel I have to do that kind of campaigning, then it’s time for me to quit,” he said.

The mailings, with GOP sponsorship printed on them, put a negative spin on four bills he sponsored, he said, some that were also sponsored by Delegate Mike McDermott, a Republican now running for state senator.

“What I am really bothered by is that no one on the local level in that party stood up and denounced it. Nobody. I’ve said to a couple of them, ‘When that came down, your central committee, and you as a candidate, should have been up on your feet saying No. Whoa. We’re not doing this here,’” he said.

But Carl Anderton, mayor of Delmar, Md., who’s challenging Conway for the delegate race, said he called state party and objected.

“There is no room for this. We’re trying to do something really exciting and to bring representation to the Shore. That kind of thing weighs me down,” Anderton told the Independent.

Conway said he will continue behaving as a gentleman and concentrate on state matters such as the budget. Members of the Appropriations Committee he chairs, the largest in the House, set a goal of eliminating the $2.1 billion deficit by 33 1/3 percent each year.

Surpassing that goal, they managed a 43 percent reduction the first year, followed by 50 percent, then the remaining 7 percent.

“Now, with the continuance of a downturn in the economy and revenue bouncing back and forth, we ended up this year with another imbalance, but we have taken steps to even alleviate that,” he said. The current deficit is $300,000 million.

The state’s Rainy Day Fund remained in place, with an $800 million balance, Conway said, adding he opposes tax increases. In fact, he favors reduces them in some areas. “I would like to see us more in comparison to neighboring states,” he said.

Concerning education, Conway said it impacts the state’s workforce.

“We maintained education funding during the downturn and maintained a 1 percent growth. We made cuts in other agencies and departments instead of cutting people. There were some who lost jobs but we tried to fill other vacancies with those folks,” he said.

Another goal is bolstering the Highway User Fund. “We started this year and gave counties $10 million and municipalities $16 million,” he said.

“I’ve been chairman of the Appropriations Committee since 2003 and there are some distinctions I am very proud of. At one session we had a 100 percent vote for the budget, with 141 members there. We only did it that one time, but we did it,” he said.

“I am very pleased and honored to have had this length of time to serve and to have the positons I have had. I’ve lived in Salisbury all my life. I was born and raised here. They couldn’t get rid of me,” he said, laughing.

“And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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