TWO VIE FOR GOP NOMINATION: Bonds spur candidacy

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

A life-long follower and participant in local and state politics, it was the city of Sanford's $14.5 million bond referendums that pushed Keith Clark into the political arena, this time, as a candidate.

"I've always been interested in politics and government," he said. "I don't remember a time when I wasn't. My father was involved and in those days gubernatorial candidates did things like visiting people in their homes. It was just a part of what we did."

Clark is seeking the Republican nomination for the Sanford City Council at-large district seat and faces fellow Republican Max Dolan in the Sept. 10 primary. The Republican candidate will campaign against the Democratic nominee, either incumbent L.I. "Poly" Cohen or challenger Chas Post, in the general election.

When the city's referendums — which include expanding the Endor Iron Furnace, extending sidewalks within city limits, creating an open space park with water elements and streetscape improvements to downtown Sanford and Jonesboro — were moved to the municipal primary to be voted on, Clark called the change unfair and said a GOP primary would give Republicans a reason to participate in the primary and voice their opinion on the bond referendums. A vocal opponent of the bonds, Clark said they are "old-fashioned" solutions that won't solve Sanford's problems or address its current needs.

"I value uncommon sense — the ability to see why the obvious answer is not usually the best answer," Clark wrote in a campaign questionnaire provided to The Herald. "I pursue future-oriented opportunities. I have senior level experience in changing the way a government process works to provide funds for even more innovative ideas."  

Clark said he played a "major role" in former N.C. Gov. Jim Holshouser's primary and general elections and he served as campaign managers and consultants for various local politicians. Clark, who is now retired, runs a blog called The Lee Dispatch, which focuses on local politics and his campaign.

"One (thing) I have discovered, as I have done my research, is that the city government is dysfunctional," Clark said. "I no longer believe, as I have said before, that we could have the bond issue ready by November 2014.  The city council members and the mayor show no evidence of understanding how to function in their jobs. The council, I don't think, knows what is going on." 

There are accounting and management practices Clark said he'd like to "clean up" if he were elected. And he'd encourage his fellow council members to "do their homework" instead of flying by the seat of their pants during meetings.

"Most of the professional areas are going well," he said. "The problem is with the way that the council conducts its business and interacts with the city manager."

As an alternative to the bonds, Clark said his priorities would be securing additional parking for Temple Theatre, placing an elementary school in downtown Sanford that would draw students and parents to the area from across the county and addressing the failure rate of small businesses.

"Sanford is in a crisis," Clark said. "Time is running out."