September 6, 2010

Proctor still considers himself an educator first

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

Despite his 20 years in the House of Delegates, Del. Jim Proctor thinks of himself as an educator.

“I am an educator who happens to be in the Maryland House of Delegates,” Proctor said. “I had a full career as a teacher, a principal and an administrator. Until I retired, every day, my job was taking care of the children of Prince George’s County.”

Proctor, 74, says education issues pulled him toward politics in the first place. He felt education issues were being forced into the back seat, and nobody in Annapolis was making education a priority.

“Now we have more educators than lawyers serving in the state legislature,” Proctor said. “It’s a complete change from how things were 20 years ago.”

Regardless of the increase share of school funding in the state budget and the increasing number of educators in the General Assembly, Proctor said he’s not yet ready to leave his seat in Annapolis, where he represents two-member District 27A mostly in southern Prince George’s.

“I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business,” he said. “Over the next four years, I should be able to knock off more of the things that I want to do,” many of them education initiatives.

He’s spent his time in the General Assembly revamping and reforming educators’ pensions, allowing retired teachers to return to the classrooms without impacting their pensions, and improving facilities – and national prominence – of Maryland’s four historically black colleges and universities, including his alma mater, Bowie State.

Proctor is the vice chair the Appropriations Committee, and has been a committee member since 1992, so he has done a lot of budget review and spending oversight in his years in Annapolis as well.

One of the biggest changes that Proctor has seen over the last two decades is that there is more information readily available to members of the public. With vote tallies and bills placed online, as well as live and archived webcasts of the General Assembly, technology has more closely connected the people of the state with their government, he said.

“People now know more about what is going on in the State House than they did before,” Proctor said.

Proctor also said that changes to ethics laws make sure that lobbyists have less influence over policy. 

Proctor said only his first election was problematic. He ran against a slate of incumbents and placed fourth, he said. When one of those incumbents resigned, he was nominated to fill the position. Proctor has finished mostly at the top of the primary polls ever since.

In this year’s primary, Proctor and fellow legislative veteran Joe Vallario face eight challengers – Barry Adams, Percel Alston, Sheri Beach, Jeffrey Brockington, Russell Butler, Theron Green, Joe Harris and James Wood – for the two Democratic spots on the general election ballot. Proctor said he is not worried.

“I campaign all of the time, meaning that people in my district see me all of the time,” Proctor said.

Proctor said his wife does not like to accompany him to the grocery store anymore because constituents are always stopping him to talk.

“It’s not hard to get elected because I don’t just talk to them when it’s an election year,” he said.