NORTH TONAWANDA – The North Tonawanda Common Council recently appointed a new member who will fill the at-large position vacated by Nancy Donovan, who officially resigned her seat Aug. 1
Robert J. Clark is a Republican who switched his affiliation from Democrat earlier this year and is seeking election to a full four-year term in November as the endorsed Republican candidate. He was appointed by the all-Republican Council to complete Donovan’s term, which expires Dec. 31.
Clark said he changed parties to accept the Republican nod. He said he had affiliated as a Democrat because it was the party of his parents, but he had always voted as an individual.
“I was a little surprised and grateful to be selected,” Clark said. “This is kind of like being an alderman trainee.”
Clark was one of four candidates interviewed by aldermen to fill Donovan’s post. Donovan announced in July that she was retiring and wanted to spend more time with her family out of state.
Clark is a 1963 graduate of North Tonawanda High School. He spent 40 years in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force as an active-duty hospital corpsman, naval reservist and Air National Guard medic.
He is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam and Iraq wars and had attained the ranks of master chief in the Navy and chief master sergeant in the Air Force.
“I started and ended my career with a war,” Clark said. “In that time I traveled all over the world and the United States. I got to see a lot of the world and different ways people have of handling their problems, and I think that’s something I can bring to the city that’s kind of unique.”
Following his military service, he returned to the city in 2008 after he inherited the house he grew up in upon his father’s death.
“I got to see the new North Tonawanda with old eyes of what I remembered of NT and new eyes of what NT looks like now, and it seemed like there were so many good things that were going on and so many potentially good things,” he said.
Clark said one of the big positive changes he saw was along the waterfront, where in the 1950s a number of factories lined the Niagara River.
“I’ve seen a number of positive changes,” he said. “We used to climb over the slag heaps to the Niagara River when it was not exactly pristine. Now, to see it redeveloping ... Buffalo is doing the same thing, and Niagara Falls will eventually get its act together and do the same thing with their waterfront, and we are just the bridge between those two cities. I think there’s just so much opportunity for recreation and tourism.”
“It will never be an industrial city again, and I am perfectly content with that,” he said.
But he said that not everyone lives near or cares about the waterfront or Webster Street, and he wants to be able to respond to them.
In civilian life, Clark worked in computer programming in the insurance, financial and energy industries, and has served on a number of veteran- and community-related boards, including as chairman of the North Tonawanda Taxpayers’ Advisory Committee and vice president of the board of directors of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, near Newburgh.
He said he is proud to be able to work with the city in both of these roles and to help facilitate bringing a Purple Heart Memorial to Veterans Park, which will be unveiled in September.