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GREG HARTON: Clark knew how to be a leader

by Greg Harton | December 13, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

I can't say I knew former Washington County Justice of the Peace Candy Clark well personally.

Clark served county residents through the Quorum Court from 2009 through 2014. She also contributed a great deal of her time and energy to organizations such as the Animal League of Washington County and to the Fayetteville Planning Commission and other city committees.

When I learned she had died on Dec. 4, it wasn't the first time this year I was saddened by news about her. Last week, it was to mourn her passing, but over the summer, it was a different circumstance.

Clark had filed earlier this year to seek election again to the Quorum Court, an occasionally dysfunctional body of 15 Republicans and Democrats who establish the annual county budget and pass ordinances affecting county interests.

In early September, Clark suddenly withdrew from the race due to a serious illness. What I didn't know at the time was that the illness was the stroke that ultimately led to her death.

My reaction, however, was one of disappointment, and in a perhaps odd way that will be my tribute to Candy Clark. She had performed admirably during her first go-round as a justice of the peace. She was a Democrat, but I always had the sense that from the moment she was elected, her devotion to public service and constituents trumped her commitment to a party.

It's not that she didn't bring ideas to the table that one might expect from a Democrat. More importantly, though, she came to Quorum Court meetings prepared and demonstrated a drive and an ability to bridge the political differences in search of solutions. She stood firm when she needed to, but she wasn't irretrievably obstinate, a quality seen in too many political leaders today.

Clark had opposition, but it was likely she'd have been elected to the District 12 seat being vacated by Sue Madison. And, while she was still in the contest, I have to admit I looked forward to her return to a Quorum Court that needs an injection of candidates with qualities like hers.

That, at least in the mind of a newspaper guy who has covered local government for years, is a great tribute to Clark and the public service she provided to the people of Washington County.

•••

I got a note from my church Friday that, as a result of the growing spread of covid-19, the difficult decision had been made to again end in-person worship. The church had been allowing an extremely limited number of people into the sanctuary, required masks and physical distancing.

The difficult decision also meant cancellation of candlelight Christmas eve services, certainly among the most popular and meaningful service of the year.

I was reminded of comments at Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Nov. 10 press conference at which Father Erik Pohlmeier, pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, spoke.

"Times like this, times like crisis are times when we want to rely on our faith even more, and so the opportunity to worship is of supreme importance for us. ... Primarily it gives us a chance to be strengthened by God himself, by the God who has seen every crisis before, a God who understands the difficulties that we feel in our hearts and a God who wants to reassure, and so our worship strengthens us by our presence with God."

But, Pohlmeier said, being mindful of others more vulnerable to covid-19's harshest effects is part of living our faith and practicing charity and justice.

Amen to that.

Greg Harton is editorial page editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAGreg.

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