He was everyone's "buddy" in the legislature and back home in Harford County, but behind that gregarious personality, there was considerable depth of purpose and thought to State Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr. who died suddenly March 5 at age 62.
A Republican who lived near Bel Air, Sen. Norman represented a conservative district stretching across much of northern Harford County and into northern and western Cecil County, including the towns of Rising Sun, Port Deposit and Perryville.
His views on taxes and social issues, particularly crime, meshed with those of his constituents, whom he had served in the legislature first as a delegate from 2009 to 2014 and then as a senator since 2015. Still, he had an open mind such is not often found in politicians, regardless of where they stand in the ideological spectrum.
Sen. Norman, who was a lawyer by profession, was reasonable man. His law practice was centered mostly in the District Court, where his clients were dealing with the everyday challenges of life, such as traffic tickets, small claims, evictions and collections. While he came from a prominent Harford County family, he understood and identified with people as well as any Harford County elected official of his generation.
He also understood that in a Maryland General Assembly dominated by the other political party, minority legislators like him needed to work with the other side of the aisle to get things accomplished for the folks back home. He had no qualms about sitting down and talking with the Democrats, while still remaining steadfast to his principles. He shrugged off critics who thought he sometimes was too willing to listen to those with different views.
Sen. Norman was approachable and a good listener, whether it was a fellow legislator, a constituent, a local elected official or a member of the media. He also had an excellent grasp of the legislative process and could explain it to the less well informed, without being at all condescending.
A few weeks before his death, Sen. Norman had provided a column to The Aegis discussing some of his work in this General Assembly session, particularly relating to his service on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where he was ranking minority member.
“State and city authorities need to provide the police, as well as all first responders, with the resources they need to do their jobs – not just financially, but morally,” he wrote. “We need to focus on stopping crime and not tying the hands of our crime-fighters.”
“We cannot ignore the victims of crime and so I am working on legislation to explicitly remove the parental rights of rapists and improve the restitution process for victims of financially-related offenses,” he continued. “I am fortunate to work well with my committee chairman – Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) – as we try to address most of these issues in a bipartisan/nonpartisan fashion.”
On Sunday, a few hours following Sen. Norman’s passing, Sen. Zirkin praised his colleague’s efforts to work across party lines, his passion for his work, his compassion for all and his “tremendously large heart.”
“It took anybody about 10 seconds to see how great of a person he was,” Sen. Zirkin said. Indeed, Sen. Norman possessed that rare combination of down-to-earthiness and intelligence that not only made him a good public servant, but an excellent man, too.