Over the next several weeks Village Life will profile the six candidates vying for two seats on the El Dorado Hills Community Services District Board of Directors in November.
Youth soccer activist Don Clark, 48, graciously volunteered to go first.
Clark and his wife recently moved their three kids, ages 5, 9 and 10, from Governor’s Village to Park Village. He’s a high-placed technical services manager at Intel, responsible for data collaboration world-wide.
He’s currently the Field Use and Equipment Coordinator for the El Dorado Hills Soccer Club and is also treasurer of the county soccer league, which provides insurance, coach and referee training and handicap soccer for the clubs in the county.
In 2010 Clark offered to help the CSD improve the dismal condition of the variously named East Field, located east of the Teen Center. The CSD’s turf expert recommended a specific hybrid Bermuda that requires 30 percent less water.
The board didn’t want to spend the money, so Clark took matters into his own hands, got three quotes from three CSD-approved landscaping firms and wrote a check for $28,000 from the Soccer Club’s field development fund.
One reason the fund had that much money was that Intel parents like Clark, who log their volunteer time, earn the club $10 for every hour they spend.
Clark’s time alone earns the club several thousand dollars each year, he said. Intel pays up to $10,000 per year for employee donated time to tax exempt organizations. There’s no cap for schools.
“I like that we spend our money in the communities we’re in,” he said. “That makes me proud of Intel.”
He’s running for the board with three priorities:
Multi-purpose athletic facility
A multipurpose sports complex in El Dorado Hills would not only serve the local community, it would be an economic stimulus as a destination for regional tournament play.
As a soccer dad, Clark has spent a lot of time in such facilities, and has researched how they are funded. He said he thinks it can be done in El Dorado Hills with private money, and also believes an economic study would show that it would pay for itself.
He cites Folsom’s complex, located behind Home Depot, as a good example and a huge success. It has four baseball diamonds and eight soccer fields, plus a busy multi-purpose gym that hosts volleyball, indoor soccer, basketball and contains studios for all sorts of recreational programming.
“Folsom’s facility is pretty much self-sustaining at this point,” he said. “There are a lot of people here that are willing to help. I work with some and I know others.”
Clark said he wants to see more and better sports fields in El Dorado Hills. As a soccer coach, he sees field conditions in other communities and said they are “almost always better than ours.”
Clark also wants to see more fields within the CSD.
“We don’t have enough fields for all the kids who want to play sports,” he said. “We’re constantly stepping on each others’ toes and fighting internally for field space. It’s ridiculous because we have enough land we just don’t have the fields.”
Clark promises to question everything on the expense side of the ledger sheet in his first year. He’s particularly irked at the district’s propensity for hiring consultants to perform work that current staff is qualified for, or that might be volunteered by a qualified resident.
He cites his own offer to bring in a team to conduct an independent review of the district IT infrastructure. “I have interns and the ability to launch a community project like this with very qualified people.”
To date, his offer stands, but has not been accepted, he said.
He’d like the district to provide wireless Internet access at the pavilion, but recommended against a proposal to provide such access in the sports fields. “In a couple years there’ll be (newer, faster, better wireless) LTE coverage here from the major carriers … who’ll bear the cost.”
Clark said he offered to fund a pedestrian bridge across New York Creek, providing access to the south field, so that young kids in Friday night soccer clinics wouldn’t have to walk the long way around the Teen Center, out of sight of parents and coaches, to get across the creek.
He recalls Interim Parks Director Mark Riemer telling him that the 6-foot bridge would require a $75,000 environmental study.
He contacted district landscape engineering firm Stantec, who’d recently done a similar study for a more substantive bridge at the north end of the park, and learned that their analysis extended to the location of his proposed bridge, just north of the Teen Center. All that was needed was some rewording of the report, which they offered up at no charge, he said.
Riemer subsequently refused Stantec’s offer. “He said I probably coerced them,” said Clark, who gave up, and decided to run for the board.
With responsibility for Intel’s world wide collaboration budget, “I have the ability to run projects on time on budget on a global scale,” he said.
He left his native Texas, where he was an administrative VP at Ford, one of eight architects responsible for upgraded Ford’s data network world-wide, to integrate the Foundation Health’s IT network into Healthnet, and later landed at Intel.
“I’m used to a high-paced environment, and I have the business acumen to look at things and know if they make sense,” he said. “Bottom line, I get measured on whether it is on time, on budget and works.”
Clark said he enjoyed Interim General Manager Rich Ramirez, and also served on the citizen’s panel that interviewed candidates for the permanent GM.
Clark promised a thorough analysis of the budget during his first year, followed by an in-depth survey of the residents to see what they want. “I’ll spend the next two years delivering it,” he said. “You can do a lot in four years. Intel doesn’t strategic plan for more than three. We need to decide to do stuff then get it done.”
He assures the voters that he’s a fiscal conservative, “but that doesn’t mean you stop spending,” he said. “You just spend smarter.”
He reiterated his belief that a multi-purpose facility would serve the community and bring it together at all levels. “It would be a place for kids to go. Instead, I’m out there taking their beer away on Friday nights. They should have something constructive to do here, and sports are a positive outlet.”
Clark accuses the district of paying lip service to volunteerism, and said his offer of assistance on the high-profile LDS project in Murray Homestead Park was initially ignored, and later refused by a board member involved in the project.
“These fields were built by fathers with shovels and rakes going out in the evenings picking up rocks,” he said. “At some point we started paying to have it done, and I’m OK with that, I just think we need to retain the opportunity to do both.”
The soccer league lines most of the fields they play on. “I have a garage full of paint to prove it,” he said. “But there are some we can’t do because they’re in such poor condition.”
He said the soccer leagues are willing to do more, “but no one asks.”
“I don’t want to be in politics, but I’m tired of feeling like taxpayer money is being wasted, or at least feeling like it might have been spent better,” he said. “And I’m really tired of the lack of transparency.”
Clark said he has no hidden agenda, and that his priorities are really “just a few ‘wants.’ If a majority of people agree, I’ll help do those things. If they want something else, I’m fine with that too.”
He explained that his real motivation in running for the board is simply to give back to a community that’s been good to his family. “I’ve been blessed in many ways,” he said. “What I really want is to leave a legacy for my kids, to leave this place better than we found it.”