Buchanan mourns loss of mayorPublished 11:04am Friday, February 5, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
In a message that greets visitors to the City of Buchanan’s Web site, Mayor Barbara J. Clark expressed her dedication to the city’s future.
“As a lifelong citizen of Buchanan, and the newly elected mayor, it is my hope to move Buchanan into the next few years with renewed vigor and vitality,” Clark said.
It was vigor and vitality that some would say Clark, herself, infused into the city, each of its residents and everyone who knew her.
Now that city and those residents mourn the loss of their leader, a leader whose laugh was as memorable as her spirit.
Clark lost her battle with cancer Wednesday evening at age 64. She passed away at her home surrounded by family. News of her death spread throughout the community Thursday morning.
“It’s a huge loss to the city,” City Manager Meg Mullendore said Thursday afternoon. “She was an incredible mayor, just an incredibly boisterous person.”
Mullendore said one of Clark’s memorable strengths as a leader and as a person was her ability to disarm people and in pacify tough situations.
Born and raised in Buchanan, Clark was a familiar face and often a friend to everyone, was the shared opinion by many Thursday.
“She was just one of those kind of people who, once you met her she always knew you,” said Diana Davis, superintendent of Buchanan Community Schools. “I think Buchanan is really going to miss her.”
“Barb was a dear, dear friend,” said Monroe Lemay, executive director of the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce. “There are a lot of wonderful people in Buchanan, but out of all of them Barb was the most genuine one I’ve ever met. One of the most heartfelt.”
Clark had a deep rooted desire to see the city she led succeed, Lemay added, which she displayed through her employment with the city for 25 years, her continued involvement as commissioner and ascension to mayor.
“She was the most wonderful kind hearted person you could have on your side,” said Jennifer Singleton, who was elected to the board at the same time as Clark. Singleton graduated with Clark’s daughter Kyra. “She was an angel.
“I’ve known her my whole life,” Singleton added. “Barb hated no one. She would make sure you were taken care of before herself.”
Singleton visited Clark shortly before her death Wednesday evening.
“Her family was right there with her,” she said. Clark is the mother of two daughters and one son. Her son had been with his mother recently but had gone back to his home in California, Singleton said he is on his way back to Buchanan.
“That was her first priority,” she said. “Her family. Everybody was her family but her kids were her life.”
She had an incredible love for children, Singleton added. While working for the city, Clark had a special wall filled with pictures residents, friends and family would bring in of their children. By the time she took the wall down when she retired, some of the young faces in those pictures had grown up into the adults that still had a warm place in their heart for Mrs. Clark.
“The feeling you had when she was near you,” Lemay said. “You knew she had your back.”
Clark’s impact left not only an indelible mark on those who cared for her but the city itself, becoming Buchanan’s first ever African American mayor – not a surprise to many.
“No, not at all (a surprise) if you know Barb,” Mullendore said. “Barb’s persona was such that you could not, not like her. It isn’t possible.”
Initially, Singleton said, when she nominated Clark, the future mayor’s reaction was one of humility. “She didn’t know if she’d be good enough to be the mayor,” she said. Singleton had no doubt and when the time came and history for the city was made, “She was honored,” she said. “She got in, it was like a piece of cake. She loved it because she was all about making people happy.”
Commissioner Carla Cole will serve as mayor pro tem and though there are procedures and bylaws in place for dealing with the situation as a city, right now, Mullendore said the city is focusing on the memory and the loss of Clark.
“Right now, is dealing with the grief and dealing with our loss as a city and as a staff and as a commission,” she said.
Through the grief, however, are lasting memories of a warm smile and an infectious and signature laugh.
“Her laugh,” Mullendore said, “because it was just loud and so pronounced and specific to her.”
“She would shake,” Singleton said. “She put her fingers over her mouth and she just bounced when she laughed. She was heaven sent. Buchanan just lost one of its angels and it’s a shame because I think she had a lot (yet) to prove in Buchanan.”