Clark is attending a leadership class at the university Jan. 27-Feb. 1 where a group of civic leaders will discuss and work on the challenges faced by each in their respective communities.
“Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage” is offered through the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The program is for senior executives in government, business and nonprofit organizations, and it encourages them to reflect on their personal leadership style. The 27-year-old mayor had to apply for the program and recently learned he was accepted.
“This will give me more tools to think creatively and think outside the box,” Clark said.
As part of the application process, he had to write three essays, one of which was about a challenge he faces in his capacity or in his community.
Clark wrote about water.
He said a balance must be maintained to meet the needs of the oil and gas industry, which is integral to the local economy, and have a sufficient source to handle population growth in the area.
“We need to better communicate what’s at stake I never thought much about it until I was mayor, but now I’m more aware of what we have, our capacity and what the water table is doing,” he said.
Chico’s water comes from six wells, and although supply is not a problem now, he said, it could be at some point.
“Municipalities here rely on water wells or Lake Bridgeport,” he said. “We don’t have to assume those are our only options.”
“Other than monitoring what we have now, no one is considering where we’ll get water down the road.”
Clark is curious about the issues other leaders will bring for discussion, and he looks forward to getting input on water planning. He said approximately 40 to 50 leaders will attend classes during the day and small group sessions at night.
“They said there would be no time for sightseeing,” said Clark, who’s never been to Boston. He noted that the program literature said they were seeking candidates from geographically diverse areas.
“I think little Chico is about as diverse as you can get from Boston,” he said.
Clark, who was first elected to the council in 2006, has been acting mayor since December 2008.
Just this week the council approved the smallest budget since 2008 – 15.8 percent less than the 2011-2012 budget.
“Yet we’re getting more streets done because we’ve reprioritized,” Clark said. “I know it’s weird, but I’ve fallen in love with working with the budget. It’s a gigantic puzzle.
“If you take a little, from a lot of places, it adds up.”
Clark said his interest in local government began when he started writing for the Chico newspaper at age 17.
“I was covering the school board, city and county commissioners in the summer,” he said. “And you know, it was my town … so I would think well, I have an idea. I started writing a few opinion pieces, and people asked me to run.
“It sparked a passion that I didn’t know I had.”
His heart for public service also led him to the teaching field. For the previous four years, he taught seventh grade English in Bowie, and this year he’s teaching history at Bowie High School.
He’s working on a master’s in educational leadership at Midwestern University and plans to teach for at least a few more years.
But at some point he would like to seek public office on the county and possibly state level.
“Whatever I do, I want to be doing it for my home, and Wise County is my home, too,” he said. “We’ve grown so much, and we have a lot more coming.”
Clark said he’d like to run for county judge, or as he’s dubbed it, “mayor of the county,” which he feels like is a more apt description of the position.
“I’d like to work ‘for home’ on the city and county level and maybe one day be able to at least be a voice at the table on state educational policies.
“I love working for the public sector, and I’d like to keep doing that for Chico and Wise County,” he said. “I hope (the leadership class) will help me realize my strengths and some things I need to work on.”