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Shank ready for role as delegate

December 02, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - After four years of working as a legislative aide at the Maryland Statehouse, Christopher B. Shank arrived for the first time Tuesday in his new role as state delegate.

"It was a pretty exhilarating experience," the freshman Republican said during a break from orientation meetings.

Shank, who won't officially be sworn in until the General Assembly session starts Jan. 13, said the reality of his election hasn't fully sunk in.

Shank beat three-term incumbent Del. D. Bruce Poole last month.

For four years, Shank, 26, was the Washington County Delegation's legislative assistant. He arranged delegation meetings and organized county bills filed in the Legislature.

Now, he'll be the one with the private office and the decision-making power.

"I haven't set foot in the office. I'm not ready for that," he said.

Shank and 15 other newly elected lawmakers listened to speakers talk about topics such as ethics and economic development.

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He sat on the House floor for the first time, beside incumbent delegates John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Republicans and Democrats held caucus meetings on Tuesday.

Casper R. Taylor Jr. was re-elected as House speaker on a motion by Donoghue.

Now is the time when lawmakers jockey for committee assignments.

Shank said he wants to be on the Environmental Matters Committee because that's where issues such as agriculture, land preservation and health care will be debated.

As he vowed during his campaign, Shank said his first priority will be working to preserve farmland, which has been dwindling in Washington County.

"We've got to get a handle on it or we're going to end up like Frederick and Montgomery counties. That's going to be my crusade for the foreseeable future," he said.

He said he also hopes to convince other members of the delegation to seek the exemption of Washington County from the Vehicle Emissions Inspections Program, although past efforts to do so have failed.

As a freshman Republican, Shank won't have much power. But he hopes to forge alliances with other lawmakers representing rural areas, he said.

"For me, in a way, it's going to be easier. I don't have to worry about all the entanglements or alliances. The only people I owe are the people of Washington County," he said.

Another new local lawmaker, Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, said he has been busy bringing himself up to speed with the workings of state government so that his constituents won't miss a beat between his service and that of retired Del. J. Anita Stup.

"This is one of the final steps between campaigning and legislating," he said.

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