Dan Clark

Spotlight on the Candidates: Mayor of Ridgecrest

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Dan Clark “I am the eternal optimist,” said Dan Clark. “What I want to bring to the city is a unifying commitment to the community, staff and council. That is my goal.”

Clark had previously served on the city council from 2002-08. He did not seek reelection, intending to retire from the council when he retired from more than 30 years as a teacher with the school district. He said several factors had motivated his reentry into pubic service.

“First, I love this community. It’s an intimate community, and we all know each other through church and baseball and restaurants.

“I was also very committed to passing Measure L, and I want to make sure every penny of that is accounted for.

“I also have a faith commitment to service.” He said he and his wife Joann have enjoyed traveling for the last two and a half years. “I think it is time to get back in.”

Clark addressed some of the recent turmoil at City Hall surrounding the passing of the budget and some controversial expenditures of Measure L, which were later reversed.

“To defend the council, they were told not to pass the budget before they knew what would happen with Measure L — that was direction from the city manager,” said Clark. “The council felt it was due diligence just in case it didn’t pass.

“I have listened to people criticize the council for everything. It was bad in their eyes. But my perception is that some of the criticism about our council was unfair. They were just doing their jobs.”

He said that the problem was not with the actions of the council, but with how it was presented to the public. “That could have been done better.”

This is where Clark said he wants to help.

“There is something called executive coaching. In business, you need a shared vision that starts at the top and goes all the way through staff,” he said.

“The way you do that is you go down the line of staff and strategize how to make that vision happen. You talk about who is going to be responsible for which tasks, and there is communication at every level. That’s what I’m interested in seeing.”

He said when you don’t have that consistency from the top level, it bleeds down through the ranks. A series of short-term city managers has made this a challenge, but Clark said he believed this time the council’s choice of city manager would establish that consistent pattern of leadership.

What will he look for in a city manager?

“First thing you have to look at is a history of following what is true and doing what is just and right. Treat people with dignity and compassion. Sit down with department heads and hear their visions and let them hear yours. You must pay attention to the budget — insolvency in cities across California is a major concern. And you have to be a student, because the learning curve is pretty steep.”

He said his vision for Ridgecrest could be wrapped up in two words — accountability and transparency. The council has $24 million in tax allocation bonds and a new revenue stream in Measure L. “If we do a good job improving the quality of life, the condition of our streets and the responsiveness of our city government, maybe the community will pass another tax measure in five years.”

When asked to prioritize budget expenditures, he said that is a council decision. “And remember about 80 percent of those are fixed costs, so you don’t have much flexibility,” said Clark.

“One thing we need to do is relieve the burden we’ve put on our departments by putting them on skeleton crews. We need to build staff morale back up.”

If elected mayor, he said he also wanted to set the precedent as an accessible leader. “I want to have an office and regular meetings with the staff and community. That is how I see the mayor. And I’m retired, so I think I can fill that void.”

Another issue he wants to address is researching the advantages of a charter city, versus Ridgecrest’s current status as a general-law city. He said the autonomy that provides might give the city some flexibility in surviving many of the mandates and revenue grabs of the state government.

He added that his past shows he is a man of action. He said in his previous term he put together conferences to listen to issues of youth, women and seniors. “They tell me what they need, and I make those my marching orders.

“People can look at my history and say, ‘Dan was an educator for 32 years, but he was also a community advocate involved in a lot of community improvements. If those are an indicator, he may be a pretty good candidate.’”

He invited voters to visit his website at www.danclarkformayor.com.

Story First Published: 2012-10-17