For too long, people in Sullivan County have been fighting with themselves, acting as if they’re two different sets of people, Clark said.
“We’re not and we have to overcome that,” he told the Times-News on Friday. “Rather than try to pit ourselves against each other, we ought to be trying to pull ourselves together.”
Clark, a former Kingsport alderman, plans to run for the top job in Sullivan County. He recently picked up a petition to run in the Republican primary for mayor. If he wins, he will face off against any other challengers in the Aug. 2 general election.
Clark is a West Point graduate, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and former Kingsport alderman, who served one term (1999-2003). He developed Sheridan Square in the Meadowview community and has for years written a column for the Times-News.
“Sometimes people think I’m critical, but I’m this community’s biggest supporter,” Clark said. “I don’t work for a big corporation. I work every day and my livelihood is entirely dependent on the success of our community, and it matters very greatly that we are successful.”
The primary thing that has to happen is for Sullivan County to create economic opportunity, which Clark calls the first-order condition. Without economic opportunity, the cities and counties do not have the resources to do the other things, like quality of life projects.
With revamped education in Sullivan County and technical training programs in the works, Clark said the region has real potential to set itself up for the future.
“We are who we are. We have limitations, capabilities and great human resources. But we need to be realistic about who we are and who we can become,” Clark said. “We shouldn’t try to be an alternate version of somebody else. We need to be the best version of us we can be, and that requires us to be honest with ourselves of what we can truly be.”
About a decade ago, Kingsport undertook a major annexation initiative, bringing in hundreds of acres and thousands of residents in the Rock Springs and Colonial Heights communities. Not everyone who was annexed was pleased about the move.
Clark, who lives just outside the city limits in the Sullivan Gardens community, said some of the policies the cities have taken on, such as annexation, have hurt the county in significant ways.
“We need to try and overcome that and work cooperatively rather than treating it as if it’s a zero sum game,” Clark said. “The reality is, if we do not grow, then everything is a zero sum game. If one person wins, then another person may lose something. I don’t think that’s how we should be operating.”
Clark said he wants everybody in this community to believe that the lives of their children will be better than their lives.
“I think we’ve lost that and that’s what we need to regain. And I think we can,” Clark said, noting that he wants to have an impact on Sullivan County.
“I’m now in a position where I believe that the time is right to work for the people and not just for my own businesses,” Clark said. “I think this is the way to have the biggest impact, and it’s something that I have the skills, the qualification and leadership abilities to be able to do that.”