Over the past few days, readers have been writing in with their stories of Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch.
Busch, 72, was the longest-serving House speaker in the state’s history. He died April 7, a day before the close of the General Assembly’s annual legislative session.
Before he launched his career in politics, Busch was a coach and a teacher at St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis. For decades, he oversaw the youth athletics program in Anne Arundel County’s parks and recreation department.
Readers shared their memories of Busch, a Democrat, writing about his time as a neighbor, coach and elected official in the State House.
The submissions below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Rick Peret, 60, from Annapolis
“Mike Busch was my neighbor in Annapolis. ... He coached my wife and her brothers and sister for swim team at the Heritage community pool. Mike was a teacher of life for me, as well as a mentor. He always had the time, no matter in or out of session, to hear issues and respond as well as advise on them. He never did not have time for anyone I know. Whenever I saw him in town, he always asked about my parents and my wife’s family. He honestly took an interest in everyone, no matter who you were. We will surely miss him in Annapolis as a citizen, advocate and leader. Mike was, and always will be, amazing. Our loss is definitely heaven’s gain.”
Jjtwo, from the Washington Post comments section
“I worked for Don Schaefer in the early ’90s. I was a lowly staffer, and everyone in the General Assembly completely ignored me — except Mike Busch, who always said hello with a smile, whether in the halls of the State House, in the tunnel or even in the parking garage. Even if you didn’t like his politics, he was a good man who loved Maryland and will be sorely missed.”
Michael Sanderson, 51, from Anne Arundel County
"Some years ago, I had taken the leadership reins with my organization, which does advocacy in Maryland politics. After Speaker Busch attended and spoke at our conference, we agreed to meet for lunch before he headed back to Annapolis. It was a great, and potentially high-pressure moment for me, as a new leader ... to talk policy and politics with a big figure like him, one to one.
We talked about a couple issues that my organization cares about, and he was receptive and interested. But what he wanted to talk about most of all was my being a fairly new father. We spent the better part of an hour talking about work-life balance, gushing about our daughters, comparing notes on area preschool options, and generally just chatting like two guys who love being dads.
Any tension or trepidation I had sitting down was gone in seconds. What a coach."
Matt Gallagher, 46, from Baltimore
"In 2008, it was my privilege to travel to Israel with Speaker Busch as part of a delegation of government, business and civic leaders from Maryland. On one brutally hot day during the trip, we visited Masada, an ancient fortification on the edge of the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea that sits high atop a rocky plateau. The local guides strongly discouraged our group from attempting the ascent on foot because of the extreme heat. While many opted to ride the gondola that day, the speaker — then in his 60s — refused. This was the epitome of a ‘one shot’ moment. If Mike Busch was going to climb Masada, then so was I.
It was an exhausting but exhilarating experience. After finally reaching the top, the speaker and I shared a brief moment where we talked about how on some tests the only grades were ‘pass’ and ‘fail.’ It was a conversation we revisited often in the years to come around a host of difficult and contentious unsettled policy issues where his personal convictions and leadership ultimately proved decisive.
I will be forever grateful for having known and spent time with such an incredible person who had such a profound impact on the lives of so many Marylanders."
“Mr. Speaker, thank you for taking me under your wing.”
— Matthew Stoller
Matthew Stoller, 45, from Annapolis
"In 2010, I decided to up and move my son and I to Annapolis from Naperville, Ill., having no clue as to what the future might hold. When we arrived here I immediately started looking for work. I had been in the restaurant industry for years, so I started applying at quite a few of the downtown Annapolis restaurants. I was fortunate enough to land a bartending job at Harry Browne’s on State Circle. I would work the bar in the evenings and the downstairs dining room in the afternoons. As many people knew, Speaker Busch loved Harry Browne’s and would frequent it many times a week for a cup of soup or a sandwich. I was extremely fortunate to wait on him on most of his visits. ...
I always looked forward to him coming in. And then, in 2013, my life was about to completely change. The speaker’s House administrator at the time had announced her retirement. The speaker and his chief of staff at the time, Kristin Jones, approached me about coming to work for them. I was in complete shock! They both knew for a long time that I was looking to get out of the restaurant industry but just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. This is where the speaker is truly amazing. He puts people in positions that accentuate their strengths. He believes in people even when they don’t believe in themselves. He gave me this amazing opportunity to work for him. Not a day goes by that I don’t walk into my office and realize how grateful I am that I was given a chance to work for Speaker Busch. I started believing in myself again because he gave me that confidence. He led not only by words but by example. ...
Mr. Speaker, thank you for taking me under your wing and changing my life and my son’s life for the absolute better. I wouldn’t be where I am at in my life without your guidance and friendship. You are in our hearts forever!"
David Patterson, 58, from Davidsonville, Md.
“Mike and I coached our 6-year-old kids together in soccer. He was one of the most kind, genuine, and caring individuals that I had ever known. We have lost a good one and will miss him dearly.”