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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 09
Sally Clark is first Gay City Council president - Clark speaks about her life and Gay marriage
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Sally Clark is first Gay City Council president - Clark speaks about her life and Gay marriage

by Kathleen Nacozy - Special to SGN

Sally Clark became the first Gay Seattle City Council president when councilmembers unanimously elected her to the position in January.

Clark is the fourth openly Gay councilmember in Seattle history. Preceding her are current councilmember Tom Rasmussen and former members Sherry Harris and Tina Podlodowski. The city is represented by nine councilmembers elected to four-year terms. Clark is serving her second full term.

Clark joined the council in 2006 by appointment when one seat was suddenly vacated. The remaining eight members picked Clark from 100 applicants. 'Strangely, I was the last person standing,' Clark joked.

Clark's background made her an outstanding candidate. She holds bachelor's degrees from the University of Washington in political science and Spanish. 'But I spent most of my time at the UW Daily,' she said.

'I had a fantastic time figuring out how to be a journalist, how to ask the right questions, how to listen, how to synthesize multiple points of view and multiple data sources and then figure out how to put it all together for people to understand. Those are the things I've loved about pretty much every job I've had.'

Clark started out as a journalist and was an SGN editor in 1993. She then worked as communications manager for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance and another AIDS nonprofit, Chicken Soup Brigade.

'Little by little I found that I not only wanted to put information together for people to understand, I wanted to make recommendations about what should happen,' Clark said.

Clark's fulfillment began in her jobs as a legislative aide to Podlodowski and King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson. In 1999, she became a neighborhood development manager for the city's Department of Neighborhoods.

Clark left the Department of Neighborhoods in 2002 to earn a master's degree in public administration from the UW because, as she said, 'I wanted to figure out how I could do all this better.'

Beyond her education and work experience, Clark is known for her superb speaking skills and sense of humor. After The Stranger referred to her as a 'milquetoast incumbent' in the 2011 council election, Clark met The Stranger Election Control Board with a toaster, eating utensils, and all the ingredients for milk toast. She even made the toast right there in the meeting.

The serious issues for Clark as council president are many. Her priorities include economic recovery for individuals and small businesses, replacing the seawall, and public safety.

Clark spent her last term as chair of the City Council's Committee on the Built Environment and pursued her longstanding interest in healthy, sustainable, safe neighborhoods. She also championed the efforts to add Transgender health care to City of Seattle employee health coverage, gain additional funding for HIV prevention efforts, and secure funding for cultural competency training for health care providers working with LGBTQ individuals.

In her upcoming term, Clark plans to lobby the state legislature to expand LGBTQ social services. 'I'm going to focus on maintaining and enhancing systems of government that LGBTQ people rely upon just as much as their straight counterparts, whether that means getting a great education, feeling safe when you're walking down the street, or having access to affordable health care.'

Clark is optimistic about the effects of Washington's Gay marriage legislation. 'Seattle's a funny place because you can assume, if you don't have your eyes wide open, that everything's great - that we've solved all the problems, that there's no LGBTQ discrimination. Well, people who are out and about living their lives know that's not true,' Clark said.

'Gay marriage has united people in way around a central issue. That's good. It makes the conversations happen.'

She is reservedly optimistic about the marriage law referendum campaign currently in motion. 'It may be that we have a tough summer ahead, but I'm convinced that marriage equality is here.'

Clark has been in a relationship with Liz Ford for 14 years. The women are domestically partnered and said they will discuss getting married if marriage is a 'real deal' after this summer.

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