Is This the Most Powerful Man in Delaware?
The Senate president pro tempore says he’s never used certain privileges unless asked by someone else. Right or wrong, Thurman Adams still wants what’s best for all.
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Thurman Adams likes to tell the story of a fourth grade teacher who proudly announced to her students that “Senator Adams will be coming to speak to the class.” One student was less than impressed. “What’s the big deal?” he said. “I can get on my bike and ride down to see him whenever I want.”
The powerful Adams (he prefers the term influential), president pro tempore of the Delaware Senate, likes the story because, “It helps me to keep my head on straight.”
First elected to the Senate in 1972, Adams become president pro tempore in 2003. Though one of the most powerful positions in state government, Adams says it’s his humble beginnings that inform his role as a legislative leader.
“I was 10 years old before the farmhouse I was born into had electricity or plumbing,” Adams recalls—and with pride. “We weren’t poor. We just didn’t have any money. But I had the most wonderful parents.”
Adams’ connection to the family farm in Bridgeville has been one reason he has never sought statewide office. “I’ve always wanted to stay close to my businesses and my grandchildren,” he says.
Adams joined the Delaware State Highway Commission in 1961, appointed by his friend and business partner, Governor Elbert N. Carvel. Adams served in that position until 1970, when the commission was dissolved as a result of a change to a cabinet form of executive administration. The years Adams spent on that commission may provide a window into what critics sometimes call his “dictatorial style.”
“There were 11 people on the highway commission,” Adams says. “Those 11 people controlled the highway department, the [Department of Motor Vehicles], state police, turnpike, mosquito control and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. The commission was streamlined and less costly to administer than the cabinet posts today.”
Yes, but, 11 people controlling everything that allowed for motion throughout the state, including that of mosquitoes?
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