(Oct. 31, 2014) Former schoolteacher Judy Davis has spent the last year painting herself as the grassroots candidate for the House of Delegates from the newly created District 38C seat.
She coasted through the Democratic primary in the spring and faces Republican Mary Beth Carozza in the Nov. 4 General Election.
Davis, both a middle child and a triplet, has lived in the area for more than four decades. When both of her twin sisters decided to go to college in Towson, she gravitated toward the beach and Salisbury University, then the teacher-centric Salisbury State College.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “My mom always had lots of kids in the house when I was growing up.”
After graduating in 1977, Davis taught in the Head Start program in Berlin for a year before moving on to teach kindergarten in Wicomico County, making just $5,000 a year and splitting her time at a small jewelry shop on the Ocean City Boardwalk during the summer.
When her former husband started a construction business, Davis stayed home and started a family, raising a son, Ryan, and adopting a daughter, Sarah.
After her children were old enough to go to school, Davis returned to teaching, working for three years in Somerset County before moving back to Wicomico County, where she spent more than 20 years in the public school system. She also continued her education at UMES, earning a master’s degree in special education in 1997 and taught there as an adjunct professor focusing on special education.
Davis retired four years ago at the age of 55.
Her political career began in earnest last year, when Wicomico County Council candidate Laura Mitchell encouraged Davis to enroll in Emerge Maryland, a training program for Democratic women. Her son, who worked in both cycles of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, also added a push towards politics.
“He was the one that first kind of got me interested,” she said. “That combined with Laura encouraging me to attend this program was sort of the catalyst. I had no intention of running for a political position. To me, I just look at it as a natural progression of my service to the community.”
Davis also returned to teaching last year, subbing at Ocean City Elementary and assisting with home hospital instruction for Wicomico County Schools, teaching medically fragile children unable to make it into a classroom.
“We had a boy in Pittsville who had spina bifida who was the only boy who never wanted to grow tall,” she said. “Every time he got a little taller they had to open up his spine. He had over 15 surgeries.”
Davis said she, “always had a heart for people who were a little bit different or who struggled or who were vulnerable.”
“I think my daughter was the catalyst,” she said. “When she came to live with us she had language delay, but it ended up being a little more. Her mom was what they call ‘socially maladjusted’ and never completed school, and my daughter had soft cerebral palsy and poor gross motor skills.
“She just needed a lot of extra enrichment,” Davis continued. “When she came to live with us, she was 2 1/2 and all she said was, ‘apple’ and ‘cookie,’ and within a year you couldn’t get her to stop talking. That’s how I got involved with helping kids through the foster system who were struggling.”
A former president of the Learning Disabilities Association of the Lower Shore, an advocacy group for parents, Davis said she has always been politically active on a grass roots level.
“I’ve always been involved in direct community activism,” she said. “When I moved (to West Ocean City), I co-chaired a walkathon for 11 years for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, raising over $32,000.”
Davis also volunteered with the Worcester County NAACP and the Germantown School Community Heritage Center, and took over social media responsibilities for three areas Democratic clubs.
Jobs and the economy, said Davis, are the central issues in the race.
“Rather than reinventing the wheel, we need to access what’s already available for us,” she said, highlighting state programs like the Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant program, the Veterans’ Education and Training program and the business incubators in Pocomoke.
“We also need to promote our area as more of a year-round living opportunity,” she said. “Our schools, of course, are excellent. We have very good medical services in PRMC and AGH, who are actively recruiting physicians who will meet the needs of our aging population. We have homes that are being foreclosed on that have short-term sales – as well as new construction – so there are plenty of places for folks to live, and our quality of life is really exceptional.”
Davis is also concerned about the environment. While she supports offshore wind as an energy alternative and believes Worcester County could do a better job with wastewater, Davis said educating people on their daily practices could cause major reductions in pollution.
“We need to do little things like provide access to recycling, and be aware of what you’re spraying on your lawn if you live near the bay,” she said.
Her experience and her longtime ties to the region, said Davis, make her the better candidate for the district.
“I’ve been on the shore for 40 years,” she said. “I have deep roots here. I made the decision to move here and I never left. I raised my two children here. As an educator, I’ll be an asset for our community in Annapolis because I have an understanding of the national learning objectives and how the demands of the global market are changing the ways we teach in our assessments and accountability.
“I’ve co-owned a small business for 20 years, doing all the steps that are involved in a small construction business. I’m an advocate for the elderly. I’ve been through the aging process with my parents here in Ocean City.
“I understand the working poor,” Davis continued. “Living in West Ocean City, you see it every day. One fourth of our children are hungry. I have a passion for people, and the skills that I have acquired from my life experiences and through my careers – and I’ve had several – are skills that would be beneficial to our community. I’ve advocated for others. I know how to work as a team members and be a respectful listener. I know how to navigate through existing programs to help people find what’s best for them. I’m a cheerleader for our community.”