Markell signs Adams’ final bill at state fair

Signing opens a day of honors for the fair’s biggest booster

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HARRINGTON – Gov. Jack Markell kicked off his first Governor’s Day at the Delaware State Fair by honoring the late Senate President Pro Tem Thurman Adams Jr. by signing the Bridgeville Democrat’s final bill into law.

Markell signed the bill in the shadows of the Thurman Adams Jr. Paddock complex, just off the race track at the fairgrounds.

“I can think of no better way to honor Sen. Adams today than to sign his final bill right here, next to his building, surrounded by his family and his friends at the fair whom he loved so much and who loved him right back,” Markell said. “Sen. Adams dedicated most of his life to serving the public and there’s literally not a bill in the last 30-plus years that he didn’t touch in some way.”

Besides being one of Delaware’s most powerful politicians, Adams was one of the fair’s biggest boosters and was well-known for escorting governors around the fairgrounds on Governor’s Day. All of which made the tribute especially touching, said Adams’ daughter Polly Adams Mervine, who is running for her father’s seat on the Democratic ticket in the Aug. 3 special election.

“Agriculture is incredibly important to this state,” she said. “And he always felt that the fair is a wonderful chance for people to come and take a look and really see what our state is about.”

Adams died last month of pancreatic cancer. But even from his hospital bed, Adams worked on legislation, including the bill Markell signed, said his other daughter, Lynn Kokjohn [cq] who thanked the governor by standing by the family after Adams fell ill. She also thanked the fair staff for the day of tributes that kicked off with the bill signing.

Thursday’s tributes included a horse race in Adams’ honor and a special tribute during the Governor’s Day dinner.

“It means a lot to us,” she said. “Dad loved the state fair and we grew up here, and all of you coming together and doing this is a really beautiful thing for all of us.”

Adams’ last bill sets up a task force to look at vehicle weight regulations and puts off implementation of a new law on the subject from January 2010 to July 2011 to give lawmakers time to study the group’s reports and recommendations. The issue is important to the farming community, which Markell said made the bill signing all the more meaningful.

“Sen. Adams was always a friend to the farmer,” Markell said, “especially those that he talked to in his Bridgeville office and those he worked with to build this incredible place – the Delaware State Fair.”