By PETER HIRSCHFELD | Vermont Press Bureau
Elected officials of all political stripes are mourning the death of Rep. Gregory Clark, the five-term Republican from Vergennes killed in a traffic accident this morning.
As law enforcement officials piece together the circumstances surrounding the deadly incident on Route 7 accident in Waltham, Clark’s House colleagues are recalling his compassion for his constituents, and the humor with which he often advocated on their behalf.
“He was a great guy who really cared about Vermonters, and in particular young Vermonters, and making sure they had the tools they needed to be successful,” said Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith. Smith said Clark wasn’t one to let party labels stand in the way of compromise.
“Greg was always willing to sit down and have a conversation and see if you could put together something that everybody would agree on,” Smith said.
Rep. Johanna Leddy Donovan, chairwoman of the House Education Committee on which Clark served, called him one of the “most popular” members of the entire body.
“Everyone knew him at least a little bit because he was always this very hale and hearty and humorous fellow and always fund to be around,” Donovan said this morning.
Donovan, a Burlington Democrat, said she grew close with Clark over the six years they served in the same committee. She said Clark, 65, was a teacher in Vergennes who used his own checkered academic past to underscore the importance of the work for which their committee was responsible.
“He would regale us with his own personal story of being, not unlike me, a kind of unmotivated student in his day,” Donovan said.
Donovan said it was a professor at Sterling College who helped Clark find his love of teaching. He would go on to get his teaching degree at Johnson State College, Donovan said.
Donovan said Clark brought a fiscally conservative perspective to committee deliberations.
“He always was very aware of dollars and cents and he always felt we could deliver a quality education at a price we could afford,” she said.
Clark had a wife and two children, according to the online politics site Ballotpedia.
While Clark’s unexpected passing will deal a blow to the Legislature, Smith said he believes the loss will bring members closer together.
“It tends to bring the body together,” Smith said. “People just remember that we’re part of a larger family. And this kind of loss, serves to remind people what’s important and not to sweat the small stuff.”
Check back later for more on reaction to the lawmaker’s death.