Hard work is nothing new to Bill Clark. He’s not afraid to make changes and cut through the bureaucratic red tape that strangles good government. And he’s a dynamic communicator – all reasons the Erie County Democratic Committee selected him to run for County Clerk.
But it’s Clark’s Buffalove that struck me: this guy is in love with the Queen City.
He’s lived in Erie County since he was 10 years old and graduated from Sweet Home High School in Amherst. Clark then joined the Marines, spending four years in California and Japan. After serving his country, he earned his undergraduate degree in Marketing from Canisus College in 2002.
After graduation, Clark worked overnight at Federal Express clearing freight through customs. Worried about the prospects of the company, Clark went back to school and earned his law degree from the University at Buffalo in 2006. Now he’s turning his attention to politics.
“This is an opportunity that doesn’t always come up and it is something I’ve always been interested in,” Clark said. “I like to be a part of the community, it lets me get out and talk to people. It gets me close to people.”
Clark has his work cut out for him in the race against his popular and well-funded opponent, but his way of looking at things may help him stand out.
“I approach things by looking towards the future. I look at trends in the community and I’ll try to gear the Clerk’s office towards what will be happening as opposed to what is happening,” Clark said. “I think if we are going to invest money in different programs they should be based on what we think the trends will be.”
Lately corruption is trending in politics and it’s gotten a bit dirty, but Clark plans to steer clear of that mess and focus on his goal of becoming the County Clerk. And he’s not interested in criticizing his opponent, incumbent Clerk Chris Jacobs.
“I don’t think this campaign will be dirty. I’m not going to do that and I don’t expect the current County Clerk will either,” Clark said.
Though the race has not made front-page news, there are three major changes that Clark would like to see: He’d like to make things simpler, easier and more efficient at the County Clerk’s office.
“I want to address customer service to the community. The Clerk’s office is a government entity but it’s where people go to do a transaction and it should be friendlier. A place where you choose to go, not because you have to,” Clark said. “I also think that with the way technology is changing you can cut a lot of bureaucratic red tape. And finally I’d like the state court filing system to resemble the federal, it’s a bit more efficient in my opinion.”
One simple change he would like to see in the Clerk’s office is letting people chose from three photos for their driver’s license. He knows this is an exciting event in people’s lives and he doesn’t want them to be disappointed.
“It’s not a big earth shattering thing, it’s something little that shows the way I think about things and the way I approach things,” Clark said.
Clark recalls an experience in the Marines right before he the end of his service when he was trying to get his belongings sent home. He was late putting in his request because he wasn’t familiar with procedures and the person behind the counter wasn’t very helpful. He can easily relate this to the Clerk’s Office and customer service.
“The people that come in to the Clerk’s Office don’t know what the rules are and you can’t expect them to know. You have to work with them,” Clark said.
Clark brings up a sign that people have seen in many government offices: “Poor planning on your part doesn’t amount to an emergency on mine.” He doesn’t believe this is the kind of attitude that the Clerk’s Office should have. Instead he wants employees to be more understanding and empathetic to the people on the other side of the counter and do what they can to get things done.
“If it weren’t for kids trying to get drivers licenses or people buying houses, you wouldn’t need a Clerk’s Office,” Clark says. “You are there to facilitate what the citizens need done. You’ve got to be efficient, but you’ve also got to be flexible.”
Clark believes he can bring this new way of thinking to County Hall by changing attitudes. Any employee who is not sure how to portray this new way of thinking can look to Clark who has a very positive outlook on his campaign and the county he calls home.
“I really love this community and I enjoy doing things for people. That is why I’m doing this,” Clark said. “I now have an excuse to meet and get to know more people. Hopefully I will have the chance to serve them and make things a little better.”
Though the race against Jacobs will be a tough one, Clark has the work ethic to get things done. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll lead him straight to the Erie County Clerk’s Office.