An alumnus of Maryville College and adjunct professor of biology, Dr. Jay Clark has a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and the freedom to teach classes that he feels are most interesting and beneficial for his students. He started out at Maryville College in 1992, and he transferred after two years for a more specialized degree at the suggestion of his then-advisor, Professor Paul Threadgill. After 11 and a half years of schooling and experience, he was able to move back to Maryville and take an open position in the biology department after Threadgill and the college reached out to him. Clark recently ran for state house here in Maryville, having run previously in 2018 and with plans to run again 2022, but he’s not sure of what the far, far future would look like.
“I’m not trying to be a politician,” Clark said. “But [no one] else has stepped up to run against the machine around here, [and I think that needs to be changed].”
Clark ran for state house in District 8, the district in which MC resides, and he emphasizes the importance of registering to vote, which can be done at his own campaign site.
Though he’s not one for parties and is critical of the two-party system, he is very much a Democrat when it comes to policies and reform he’d like to see. East Tennessee has mostly been red since the Civil War, but Jay states his decision to run was not in regards to the party of his representative.
“A person was in that seatand not returning my phone calls, or responding to my emails about serious issues in Tennessee,” Clark said.
He acknowledges that politics in Blount County are “very much a good ol’ boy system,” which makes it difficult to have access to your representatives if you’re not wealthy or connected to those in those positions here in Blount County. It’s definitely something that he’d like to change, another motivation for his running for office.
Drawing from his experience and frustration with his representative here in Blount County, Clark has established a platform based around accountability, accessibility, healthcare, and public education. He favors expanding Medicaid, which would be catalyzed by expanding the role of TennCare and would benefit over 300,000 working Tennesseans who don’t have health insurance.
“If you don’t have health insurance, you don’t have access to the quality healthcare we have here in America,” Clark said.
Clark is a product of Tennessee public education system and is responsible for training future K-5 teachers at Maryville College. He believes in our public education system, and his biggest priority in regards to it are equity for those who are disenfranchised, i.e. people of color and people with disabilities.
He disagrees with Governor Lee’s push for school vouchers, which he calls an “education savings account” and asserts that Governor Lee’s “saving account” takes money from our public schools here in Tennessee, for the benefit of funding private education. Clark is not opposed to private education, but he does oppose the subsidizing of private schools and the usage of our tax dollars going to said schools, which would further defund public schooling and further disenfranchise those who are already disadvantaged.
Lastly, Jay Clark and I talked about the importance of civic and political engagement, with him mentioning the lack of equity in our country and the inequality in every system we have here in America.
“The voting booth is the ultimate equalizer,” Clark said..
No matter who goes in the voting booth, they have the same number of votes as the next person, no more, no less. Clark emphasizes the importance of staying involved and educated on all levels of government because you are affected in every aspect of your life.
“We all have the civic duty to go vote but we also need to be intellectual about it” Clark said. “We need to vet candidates and see where they stand.”
Jay Clark encourages questions and can be reached at jayclark4tn.com and [email protected].