“Being the mayor of the city of Kingsport is an honor, a privilege and a phenomenal experience. I’m very grateful and appreciative of everyone’s trust and confidence,” Clark told the Times News during an hour-long interview. “I think it’s time for someone else to feel the magic of Kingsport from the mayor’s seat.
“And it really is magical, what goes on in this town. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of it, and I’ll help continue that work as much as I can.”
Clark was appointed to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in February 2012, then re-elected to the BMA the following year. In 2015, when then-Mayor Dennis Phillips chose not to seek a sixth term, Clark defeated four other candidates to become Kingsport’s 27th mayor. Clark won a second term in 2017, running unopposed.
The Times News sat down with Clark last week to talk about his time as mayor, the reasons he’s not running for a third term and what the future holds for him.
When did you decide not to seek re-election?
“I’ve felt over the last year or so that I’ve accomplished three or four personal goals for myself, serving in this capacity. Once I realized about a year ago that most of those goals have been accomplished, by the end of my second term I would feel really good about where we are and feel it’s time to move on.”
What were your goals?
“First, to make a positive impact on the city, then to improve the quality of life for all residents, and third was to ensure a prosperous future for Kingsport. The overarching goal was ... I wanted to provide hope and faith to the citizens that Kingsport has a good, strong future and our best days were ahead of us and not behind us.”
Clark is a former vice president of imaging business at the Belgium-based Agfa Healthcare. After becoming mayor, Clark retired from Agfa, but he soon became a consultant to the company, working on a project per quarter for the past two years, he said.
What do you plan to do once your term expires?
“Over the last seven years, I’ve had two jobs — my private sector job and my public service job. I think at this point I’m a little worn out. I’d like to take a break. I’ve never had a non-working vacation, so come July 1, I think I want to take three months off and maybe relax a little bit, then think about what my options might be.
“I think I have some options in the private sector side, then I’ll see what’s available in the public service side. This time next year, I should be fully engaged in one of those.”
Do you plan to stay in Kingsport?
“If something were to surface with a public service opportunity, it would keep us here. My concern about going into the private sector ... what I’m looking at would most likely take me out of the area, which would be a real shame. I love this area and the people here. If that were to happen, I would probably commute and keep our home here.”
What do you see as Kingsport’s greatest challenge?
“We need to guard against becoming more of a commuter town. Census data shows we have 20,000 commuters who come into our town every day. Commuters are fine, but what really makes a city is the people who live here. You overcome that challenge by improving the quality of life. I hope the next mayor understands that challenge and continues to work improving our unique quality of life and investing in our assets.”
Municipal elections will take place in Kingsport, Bristol and Bluff City on May 21. On the ballot in Kingsport will be four seats on the BMA and three on the Board of Education. Potential candidates have been able to pick up petitions to run for office for more than two weeks, and a few have done so, including Vice Mayor Mike McIntire for the office of mayor.
The deadline to file a petition to run for office is at noon on Feb. 21.