By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A tricorn hat doesn’t fit in a souped-up Mercedes roadster.
But Robert C. Clark doesn’t need to dress in Colonial garb to lead the Historic Annapolis Foundation. A well-tailored suit is more the retired stockbroker’s speed.
He means business when it comes to preservation, and that’s exactly what the 61-year-old organization needs, according to many in Annapolis.
Clark mixes a lifelong interest in history — especially anything related to Thomas Jefferson — with a desire to keep HAF relevant and profitable.
“He’s got the passion, he’s got the background and he’s the right person at the right time,” said Joe Rubino, chairman of the board.
The 68-year-old city resident assumed the post of president and CEO last month, after serving as interim head since September.
He has been busy.
Clark already has a plan for HAF, has been networking around town, and hired the first preservationist to work for the organization in several years.
The move was No. 1 on Clark’s to-do list.
“I’ve hired the marquee name,” he said.
Donna Ware, who left Historic London Town and Gardens at the end of December, has been on the job just over a week.
“I feel like I can contribute in getting HAF’s preservation program back on track and reinvigorated,” she said.
The job, which carries the formal title of senior vice president for preservation, is advocacy-based. Ware will comment on projects before the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, review restoration work on HAF buildings, and oversee the historic marker program.
Ware, who lives in Annapolis and has been involved with historic organizations for almost 40 years, is impressed with where HAF is headed under Clark.
“He’s got a lot of energy and a clear direction,” she said. “There aren’t enough hours in the day for this man.”
Clark, a grandfather, is a sixth-generation Marylander who has lived in Annapolis on and off for 30 years.
He traces his family back to David Clark, who in 1797 signed a contract with Charles Carroll of Carrollton to manage a fulling mill at Doughoregan Manor in Howard County.
Clarksville is named after David Clark’s oldest son.
Robert Clark became involved with HAF soon after retiring in March 2010 and joined the board almost immediately. He spent 43 years in the management side of the securities business and had moved around the country.
“He had this kind of senior, senatorial presence which provided an everyday level of comfort and assurance,” said Jack Warfield, vice president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Long Island.
Clark used to be Warfield’s manager and is a longtime friend.
“He’s very engaging,” Warfield said. “I talk in paragraphs. He can reduce a thought down to a couple sentences.”
Although Clark was an economics major in college, HAF is not his first historic group.
He served as president of Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s retreat near Lynchburg, Va., and is still on its board. Clark became interested in Jefferson after participating in a 13-week lecture series offered by the Smithsonian on the president in 1976.
“He created a country,” Clark said. “He just sort of touches all the high points if you’re interested in the history of our country.”
And he already was, courtesy of his father, who always talked about the family’s heritage.
“I’m in touch with my inner historian, but I’m a capitalist, foremost,” he said.
This is a good combination, because donors and shareholders have one thing in common: Both want a return on their investments, he said.
Jim Nolan, immediate past president of the HAF board, said Clark provides a fresh perspective. “Nonprofits are businesses,” Nolan said. “The money doesn’t fall out of the sky like it once did.”
Clark’s office is in Shiplap House, which dates to around 1715. He hasn’t had time to add any personal touches. But some Jefferson items could be coming soon.
In the meantime, he has been combing through HAF’s own history, which is detailed in boxes and files. “It’s part of the fun,” he said. “It’s interesting to see … what happened in the 60 years that preceded me.”
But he’s more focused on the future. His plans for the organization are based on his experience and his talks with residents.
“He’s done an exceptional job of getting out there and representing the organization,” said Lisa Craig, chief of historic preservation in the city.
Clark came to two conclusions from his discussions: Historic Annapolis is less relevant than it used to be, and everybody was pulling for the organization.
The findings seem disparate, but he interpreted them as meaning HAF needed to be more of a voice for preservation. “We no longer need to lay down in front of bulldozers,” he said. “The challenge is getting the message out.”
Thus, his move to hire Ware. HAF also has just opened a new exhibit, “Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake,” at its museum.
“He’s got it all,” said Freddy Struse, vice chairman of HAF’s board. “In 10 years, HAF is going to be a national leader in historic preservation because of the things he’s putting into place now.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)