RIDGWAY – Two candidates have declared for the position of Ridgway’s mayor, to be decided at the April 3 election. The Watch will profile John Clark this week and Janet Smith next week.
Clark has lived in Ridgway for 30 years. He is currently on town council, and has been for the last 11 years. He is the council’s Mayor Pro Tem, stepping in to run meetings when Mayor Pat Willits is out of town. He has been on the town’s Planning Commission for over 20 years, the last ten as chair.
Clark is married to Mallory Clarke (with an “e”), a teacher at the Ridgway Schools. They have two grown daughters.
Clark said he decided to run for mayor to fill a vacuum left by Willits’ departure after 12 years in the mayor’s chair. Willits announced his decision not to seek reelection last month.
“I wear a lot of hats,” Clark said. “I’ve got plenty of stuff in my life, but I wanted to step up.” His main business is The Mac Doctor, a consulting and teaching gig around Apple computers. He still makes fused-glass art as the proprietor of Alpine Art Glass. He’s still on P&Z. And he is a member of numerous town council committees, including the committee involved in forming the Creative District, a committee looking into commercial design regulations, an unaffiliated committee to Save the Sherbino Theater, and the energy watchdog group, the Western San Juans Regional Energy Board.
Asked about his strengths, Clark went back to his experience running meetings. “I like to think that is one of my strengths: running a good, tight, fair meeting – not letting them run off.”
He listed three things on his wish list for the town. “I’d like to figure out a way to get the business community and the council working together as partners. The hardest thing is to see an issue from everybody’s angle. For the benefit of the larger community. Not just your personal pulpit.”
“I’m excited about the new commercial design guidelines committee. We’ve been working since the Family Dollar came in – what we’re calling ‘formula stores.’ This came out of the protests, the fears that more are coming down the pike behind Family Dollar. We thought we had some defense in our codes, but we were caught off guard. I’m sure Family Dollar will contribute some sales taxes, but when it comes to jobs, it’s not happening. The construction crew are all from Utah. The manager will be from out of the area. Some employees will be hired locally, but these will be low-paying jobs. This kind of thing is going in the other direction from what the Transition Towns movement is advocating.
“Some interesting ideas have come out of this committee, ideas about parking lots and sign law changes, for example, how to deemphasize the giant parking lot. It’s exciting: we’re talking about a 21st-century approach to planning that is not coming out of 1950s thinking.”
The third wish Clark wrapped in the all-purpose term sustainability. “Sustainability means you shop here; you work here; we take care of each other.
“We’ve talked for years about how do you get people to shop locally? I’m proud we turned down City Market in 1995, or whenever it was. Montrose wants to be that community. We didn’t want to be that community. I’d like to open up some sort of dialogue, talk to Mountain Market, talk to the gas stations, find some incentives – locals’ coupons? – maybe reach a tipping point where sustainability can snowball and we don’t have to drive to Montrose for cheaper gas – oh, and while we’re there, we’ll just stock up at City Market.”
I asked Clark what he sees as the difference between being a councilman and being mayor.
“The biggest thing is the mayor doesn’t vote, unless there is a tie.” Then, in addition to the underappreciated tone-setting and fairness aspects to running a meeting, Clark said, “To me, the mayor is willing to take the stage. To show up at public events to introduce and welcome everyone. I think the workload, the homework, is pretty much the same as being a councilman. But with the mayor, it’s another level of personal involvement and responsibility.”