Time for De Clark to give back | VailDaily.com

Time for De Clark to give back

Tamara Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyRichard DeClark mixes a grape flavored drink in his lab Thursday in Edwards.

EDWARDS – You could call Richard De Clark a self-made man. A flavor chemist who first learned the science in his father’s lab – not in a textbook – DeClark has become a profitable businessman with clients whose brand names line the inside of most American refrigerator doors.Just about a decade after he moved to Eagle County, De Clark is a well-recognized figure in the community. He has held positions in several local organizations, including serving on the board of directors for the Jimmy Heuga Foundation and the Eagle County Youth Foundation. De Clark has also built and sold buildings. He at one time was involved in the Two River Village project in Dotsero until an outside developer bought out him and partner Gerald Gallegos.Since announcing his candidacy for a seat on the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, the Republican De Clark has raised nearly twice as much money as his competitor, Democrat Peter Runyon. And as he inches toward $30,000 in campaign funds – about half of which have come out of his own pocket – De Clark appears on track to beat fund-raising records for the county.His success is obvious, but he doesn’t appear to spend a lot of time sitting in a chair with his feet up. Instead, during a recent afternoon in his Edwards office, De Clark was tinkering in his lab, trying to come up with the perfect cherry flavor for a chewable vitamin. De Clark won’t let you in on the secrets behind his flavors. As for the secret for his success?”I’m a quick learner,” he said. From the ground upDe Clark grew up in Southern California, a region full of industry, opportunity and people. He was the sixth of seven children. His father, who worked as a salesman for a flavor company, lost his job while De Clark was a child.

“He made too much money,” De Clark said. Unstymied, his father used the opportunity to start a flavor company of his own. His family – including De Clark and his older brother – were immediately given jobs. De Clark was 12.”It was just the three of us,” De Clark said. “We did everything. We didn’t have the money to hire employees.”His afternoons after school were spoken for from then on. De Clark would ride his bike to his father’s plant, work, do his homework and go to bed. Because of the demand, De Clark couldn’t play sports or participate in many after-school activities. After high school, he never went to college.”I couldn’t,” he said. “I was working 60, 80 hours a week.”But he loved the business. He and his brother eventually bought out his father’s investment and the company, Continental Flavors, eventually grew to have factories in California, Washington, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. He spent much of his time traveling to meet with clients, pulling him away from his wife, Janet, and his children. One day, his brother asked De Clark an interesting question after a typically long day of work.”He asked, ‘Are you tired?'” De Clark recalled. “And I said, ‘Of course I’m tired. I’ve been working all day.”He said, ‘No. I mean, are you tired of this?'”And then my brother said, ‘Let’s sell,'” De Clark said. In 1990, the brothers did just that. He and Janet began considering what to do next.

“I had been working for over 20 years,” De Clark said. “My wife and I had a place out here. Our kids were young and we started thinking, do we want to raise our kids in Southern California?”The answer to that question was no. The De Clarks packed their bags and relocated to Eagle County. Becoming part of the communityThe De Clark’s settled in Edwards and quickly adjusted to a more rural lifestyle.He doesn’t miss Southern California at all, while he still has family there and visits them regularly. Eagle County is a better, safer place to raise a family, he said. “If my kid acts up in a movie theater, I’m going to know about it,” he said. “I’m also going to know that if he gets a flat tire, someone is going to help him with it”. He’s working again, though on a much smaller scale. He has a plant in California, run by his brother-in-law. When De Clark comes up with a flavor for a client, he calls his brother with the recipe.There are other changes, too. Faced with more free time than ever before, DeClark started volunteering for community groups. He joined the Eagle Valley Rotary, he volunteered for the Salvation Army and joined the board at the Heuga Center. He now serves on the Eagle County Youth Advisory Board. His wife also became involved with her children’s school and now spends a few hours a week at the Heuga Center working as a speech pathologist. Unlike Southern California, where the population is in the millions, De Clark feels he really can make a difference in Eagle County, a community of about 44,000.

“I didn’t have time for this before,” he said, and then pauses. He knows this sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. “I felt it was time to give back,” he said. Running for county commissioner seemed like the next step, he said. He sees loads of things he would like to improve, he said. He’d like to see better opportunities for kids, such as a community center that would give them a place to hang out – supervised – but on their own accord, he said. The county has done a good job of improving the local economy in the best way Eagle County can : By promoting recreation and tourism. He’d like to see more, he said. “I’d like to see us become the recreation capital of the world,” he said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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