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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 3 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 31
SGN Exclusive Interview: Sally Clark
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SGN Exclusive Interview: Sally Clark

Seattle City Council president reports back from Kennedy School

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

Sally J. Clark, a member of the Seattle City Council since 2006 and its current president, recently attended the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The three-week program is designed to 'help seasoned public officials meet the changing needs of their constituents and communities,' school officials say, and it 'enables participants to become more effective public managers.' SGN was able to chat with the very busy Clark about the prestigious course.

'Three weeks is a lot of time away from work, family, and home,' Clark told SGN. 'But I'd been wanting to do it for a few years.'

The course is designed for career public servants, and in essence it is an almost philosophical look at democracy and leadership in action.

'It gives time to struggle with the questions that I don't always have time to struggle with day-to-day,' said Clark. 'There's not a lot of space for that in people's [daily] work for that.'

On the most basic level, the course explores the relationship between citizens and their government, offering public officials a chance to think of new conceptual frameworks for addressing policy issues. Students take an in-depth look at the behavioral dimensions of decision-making and are able to challenge the accepted assumptions about how to exercise leadership in the public sector. Things that like, Clark said, are things a public official will always have in the back of his or her mind but will not often have time to mull over.

'It's a look at how government can work better,' said Clark.

DIVERSE CLASSMATES
Clark was one of 78 students from all over the United States, and from countries such as Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand. She studied with other councilmembers, assemblymembers, and even judges.

'It was really just a great mix of people to work with,' said Clark. 'It was really great company.'

Clark told SGN that during the three-week course she was in class all day and did homework at night, just like when she was studying at the University of Washington, where she earned her degree in political science.

The course is, in Clark's words, 'pretty expensive' - and it is, costing more than $10,000. But Clark was able to attend thanks to a grant from the Victory Institute, an organization dedicated to changing the face and voice of America's politics by increasing the number of openly LGBT officials at all levels of government.

'I was very lucky that I received help from the Victory Institute,' said Clark 'That really made it possible for me.'

The Victory Institute has a program specifically designed for helping openly LGBT politicians take the Kennedy School course - the David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellows. Ninety-one openly LGBT leaders have been able to attend since 2002 through this program.

The Seattle City Council president is happy to be home and back alongside her partner, Liz. When asked if the two plan to walk down the aisle after November, Clark said, 'Were certainly going to talk about it a lot more seriously if things go well this fall, that's for sure.'

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