Former Chatham councillor Don Clarke remembered for dedication to community

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A former Chatham councillor is being remembered for his dedication to the betterment of the community.

Don Clarke, who served on the former Chatham city council and was among the first 18 members elected to the inaugural Chatham-Kent council, died Friday at age 68.

Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman, who worked with Clarke on both the former Chatham and current Chatham-Kent councils, remembered Clarke for always being conscious of municipal taxes and “always conscious of those who were less fortunate and had to pay those taxes out of their hard-earned dollars.”

Noting Clarke was always approachable, Sulman said, “I found him great to work with.”

“We got along very well because we’re probably of the same philosophy of expenditures and taxes,” Sulman said.

He credited Clarke for being able to make the tough decisions.

“As I’ve often said, ‘You’re not there to be popular and you’re not there to make easy decisions,'” Sulman said. “What you’re there for is to make the right decision and sometimes that’s awful tough.

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“I know Don was of that same philosophy.”

Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew recalled her time sitting beside Clarke in council chambers after she was first elected as councillor in 2006.

While noting they didn’t share the same views on a lot of topics – “I was a little more liberal than he was on things,” she laughed – Crew treasured her friendship with Clarke and appreciated learning from his example.

She was impressed when Clarke, who was initially opposed to the once-controversial Capitol Theatre, changed his mind.

She recalled Clarke talking about walking in downtown Chatham with his wife Hilda and thinking about why things such as the Capitol Theatre were making a return.

“It’s got to be all these things, including the Capitol Theatre, they’re starting to bring life back into this community,” Crew remembered Clarke telling her.

She also recalled Clarke predicting he would lose his base of support that elected him to council, but saying, “this is going to be the right thing to do.”

He was correct and lost his seat in the 2010 election.

“I really admired him for taking that stance because he knew what it was going to cost him,” Crew said.

Clark was first elected to the former Chatham council in 1991 and served two terms before being elected to the newly created Chatham-Kent council in 1998. He decided not to seek re-election in 2000 and failed in a bid for re-election in 2003.

However, Clarke made an unexpected return to council in November 2005 after being asked to fill a vacant seat in Chatham Ward 6 after the death of veteran councillor Doug Arbour.

He was re-elected a year later but lost another bid for re-election in 2010.

Clarke is survived by his wife Hilda and two sons – James and wife Lisa, and Todd and partner Shemia.

eshreve@postmedia.com

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