By Jamie Hawkins
KENTWOOD, MICH. — Richard Clanton made a promise. A promise to follow through predecessor Richard Root’s term in the hopes of making Kentwood a better place through his eyes, and the eyes of the late Richard Root. A promise made and a promise kept.
Mayor Clanton took office Tuesday June 5, 2012, just four days before Root‘s passing after a long and exhausting battle with cancer.
“I decided I would offer myself up so as not to run against the other commissioners in the next election,” said Clanton with a look of remembrance in his eyes. His notion to not run for the 2013 mayoral term played a significant role in Root’s and his commissioner’s choosing of who to finish the term.
He recalled on the day of the request during his visit at Root’s home in Kentwood. Root hoped for a commissioner to take his place, a friend who he and the commissioners believed would finish his term in his absence. Clanton graciously accepted, setting aside his aspirations to run for the next term.
“I gave him my word,” said Clanton. “I’ve lived up to it, the city is in decent shape, and I think I’ve done my job well.”
According to the city’s official website, Kentwood is rated the fastest growing city in Michigan and 5th best city in the state.
Clanton worked on several projects in his 18-month term, including signing off on the Silver Line bus transit, but none as memorable as those involving hands-on work with the city’s residents.
With a smile on his face and a look of nostalgia, Clanton told the story of rebuilding Pinewood Park which was burnt down in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day in 2012. Dozens of residents volunteered to help rebuild, showing the city’s charitable colors in a time of need.
Of all his contributions, however, Clanton reminisces on the naming of the Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Branch Public Library as one of his greatest projects.
“Getting the library named after Rick Root was a big thing,” said Clanton.
A promise made and a promise kept indeed.
Clanton spent nine years at Kentwood City Hall as mayor pro tempore before taking his term, assisting the mayor in any and all legislative and, sometimes, administrative duties for the commission. He spent four years as a member and CEO of the United Methodist Community House in Grand Rapids and will be returning to the organization with anxious excitement.
Will you miss it? “A little bit,” said Clanton, “but I’m excited to return to UMCH.”
An election will be held in November with candidates Stephen Kepley and Sharon Brinks running for office. This is the first time an incumbent will not be taking over as mayor.
Clanton is considering running for a position in the state house or city council in 2016, but his time in city hall will not be forgotten.
He just announced his intentions to lead United Community Methodist House (UMCH) as its Chief Executive Officer full-time immediately following November 11th. “The opportunity to serve was a special and bittersweet one,” Clanton concluded.