KINGSPORT — Alderman John Clark describes himself as not a politician, but rather a family man and a businessman who wants to give back to the community and continue working for Kingsport’s success.
Clark made these comments during a campaign kickoff event at the Mustard Seed Café before nearly 100 friends, family and supporters Thursday evening. Clark is one of five candidates running for alderman in the May 21 city election.
“I’ve had a great experience being an alderman and I really want to continue to build on the success the city has achieved over the past 12 years,” Clark said.
Clark has worked in the health care industry for 30 years and is the current vice president of imaging business at Agfa Healthcare — a Belgium-based global provider of diagnostic imaging and health care IT equipment.
A 1980 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Clark and his wife Etta (vice president of communications and public affairs at Eastman Chemical Co.) have lived in Kingsport since 1995. The couple have two daughters, Alex and Haley, both Dobyns-Bennett High School graduates.
After being introduced to the sounds of “Rocky Top,” Clark began his kickoff by sharing about his family, how he came to the United States from Cuba and why he chose to move to Kingsport 18 years ago.
“I’m not comfortable talking about myself,” he admitted. “I’d rather talk about others.”
Clark and his parents fled from Havana, Cuba, at the age of 2, on a small, single-engine airplane. After arriving in the United States, Clark’s father landed a job at DuPont in Philadelphia, the town where he was raised.
“I grew up in a great family and I hope that pays off now,” Clark said. “I got my community spirit from my parents, a sense of hard work and dedication. They were great role models.”
Clark was appointed to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in February 2012 to serve out the remaining term of then-Alderman Ben Mallicote, who had resigned to challenge state Rep. Tony Shipley in the Republican primary. This election will mark Clark’s first run for public office.
About two years ago, Clark said he realized he wasn’t giving enough back to the community, noting when the opportunity arose, he jumped at the chance to serve on the BMA.
“While being an alderman, you try to solve the city’s problems, but you also get to see all the great deeds that are done,” he said.
Clark outlined his four main goals over the next four years if re-elected to the BMA, with the top issue being affordable growth by the city living within its means and making good investment choices. Clark added he would continue to push for an excellent school system with the goal of improving the graduation rate.
Creating good paying jobs and pushing Kingsport’s unemployment rate below 6 percent over the next two to three years and supporting businesses, especially small businesses, rounded out the remainder of Clark’s goals.
“At the end of the day, the city makes progress by how well it supports the businesses and residents,” he said.
Echoing a similar sentiment expressed last week by Vice Mayor Tom Parham (who is also running for re-election), Clark said he believes the city needs to create a new visioning plan to help guide it over the next 10 to 15 years. The last visioning effort was done in 1999.
“Where do we go from here?” Clark said. “The next BMA will play a major role in how we go forward.”
Five candidates will be on the ballot for the three alderman seats in the May 21 city election: the incumbents, Tom Parham and John Clark; and the three challengers, Linda Buckles, Colette George and Eric Kerney. Mayor Dennis Phillips will face off against challenger Gary Lane.
Early voting begins May 1.