ANNAPOLIS – Freshman Del. Raymond Beck is not exactly a newcomer to Maryland’s capital city.
The Montgomery County Republican began his first career at the U.S. Naval Academy, training as an electrical engineer. He reached the rank of captain, commanding destroyers during the Vietnam War and winning a bronze star. Along the way he married, brought up his son and daughter in military postings worldwide, and retired into a private sector engineering job.
Forty years later, Beck, 62, is back in Annapolis, this time to make laws in the General Assembly.
“There’s something about politics that drives people,” Beck says. In his case, it was “frustration for the way William Donald Schaefer was running the state.”
Beck never paid much attention to state politics until he heard the former governor wanted to use public funds to build a stadium in Baltimore.
He got involved with the local Republican party to fight the stadium plans, and decided to run for the House of Delegates when the 39th District was created in northern Montgomery County.
Beck uses two criteria to evaluate a bill: “Is it fair? And does it make sense?”
A long-time member of the non-profit government watchdog group Common Cause, he wants to keep a check on government spending and control and has co-sponsored bills on lobbying reform and other ethical matters. “I really worry that government is taking over everything we do,” he explains.
Beck also worries about whether the state spends enough money in Montgomery County, considering the income taxes its residents pay. The county may have the highest per capita income in Maryland, but his district is mostly middle class, he says.
Beck’s interest in government finance was apparent early to his campaign supporters. Del. Mathew Mossburg, R-Montgomery, says he was impressed with the candidate’s knowledge of local tax issues.
“He has a good head on his shoulders,” Mossburg says. “He’s done his homework.”
During his campaign, Beck set a $25 limit on contributions. And he says he is more interested in voting his conscience than advancing his political career. “At my age I certainly don’t want to be president or governor,” he says.
Beck says that so far, the best part of lawmaking is working with constituents. He promises that he or an aide will respond to letters and calls within one day.
The son of two teachers, Beck has signed on to several education reform measures in the 1995 session, including bills to abolish the controversial legislative scholarship program and end the community service requirement for high school students. He believes Maryland’s public schools do not put enough effort on teaching basic skills.
“It seems we’re trying to tailor the education system to individual kids,” he says. “Schools shouldn’t have to adjust to kids.”
And while Beck would like to cut spending in the proposed budget, he says he is pleased with Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s relationship with the General Assembly.
“Clearly, he’s not going to try to bully us. He wants more of a team effort,” Beck says.
His family and fellow lawmakers praise his honesty and diligence in his legislative work.
Joan Beck, his wife of 35 years, says he spends hours evaluating bills individually to ensure that he votes fairly.
Del. Kumar Barve, a Democrat and chairman of the Montgomery County delegation, calls Beck “willing to work with people, but not afraid to disagree when he feels strongly about an issue.”
Del. James Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s and vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, says Beck has been an active participant on the influential panel.
“He’s very interested in the issues we deal with,” Rosapepe says. “He spends a lot of time trying to learn.”
Beck traces his committee assignment to a conversation with a woman in an elevator before the session began. She recognized him as a freshman, and asked how he was adjusting. He expressed hope he’d get to serve on Ways and Means, because of his interest in education and finance. She said she’d see what she could do.
Beck didn’t know it, but the woman was Del. Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery and chairman of Ways and Means.
The new delegate hasn’t made many plans for the months after the session ends in April — beyond golf. “He’s got a great golf swing,” Joan Beck says.
Beck has volunteered to help out in local schools and the Republican Party, and may also consult part time for VITRO Corp., his former employer in Arlington, Va.
Meanwhile, he’s enjoying the newness of life at the Statehouse. “It’s been a very good year,” he says. “I’m delighted to be here.” -30-