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Lee Clarke - the accidental politician

Published:Wednesday | March 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Clarke: It wasn't my intention to be a politician.

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

It wasn't his first choice, but Mayor of Kingston Lee Clarke has forged quite a career in politics.

Clarke has been councillor for the Whitehall division for the past 30 years. He got into politics during the 1970s.

"In 1976, I was instructed to work with Douglas Vaz but he had too many people assisting him, so I started helping out Karl Samuda," he recalled. He and Samuda got to work, seeking assistance from business people to help provide water for the residents of the area he would later serve. Samuda was successful in the 1980 general election and he recommended that Clarke, who had lived in the Red Hills Road area, run in the local government equivalent.

"It wasn't my intention to be a politician," he admitted. "But he (Samuda) said I should because I know the people and I have been working with them, so I went and was accepted."

He said that many things have changed over the years.

"People tend to forget that the role of the councillor is to see to the infrastructure and the needs of the people," he said.

Many expectations

Clarke explained that now "it's like you have to be a family counsellor as well", dealing with every request for money, from back-to-school payments to illness.

"The population grows so fast. The resources that are there are not enough to fill the demand," he said. Asked about his achievements as councillor, Clarke said one thing he was very happy about was that he has been able to assist the youth with educational opportunities.

"I can't count the number of people I've schooled," he said. A certified racehorse trainer, he said he also tries to give out scholarships every year. One area in which that he would like to see more done is helping the elderly.

"A lot of ex-civil servants, you look at their living conditions and their diet ... it's appalling," he said. He has no worries that the Jamaica Labour Party will retain control of the council because "we have performed". And as such, he cited there was more work to be done, road repairs with greater tax collection high on the agenda.

An avid writer, Clarke has cited the next term as his last as he plans to indulge in that other passion in the future.

"I love writing books and there are a myriad of stories I would like to tell," he said with a laugh.