The Cherokee County Election Board said goodbye to one of its more notable, bow tie-wearing individuals, as Secretary Rusty Clark is moving up the career ladder to work at the Oklahoma State Election Board.
"The position came open and I was asked if I would be interested. We discussed it, and I decided to try to get the job, and I got it," Clark said.
His new title will be assistant director of support services and training director.
"I will be in charge of all the precinct officials, new secretary training and more," he said. "I love it here, I really do; it's just that in this business, that's where that opportunity is; otherwise, I'd just stay right here."
One of the deciding factors for accepting the position at the Oklahoma State Election Board, Clark said, was that most of his family lives near Oklahoma City.
"Eliza Belle - that's my grandbaby. That was the big thing, but it was also the challenge and the ability to be involved in the statewide aspect of elections rather than just running county elections," he said.
A graduate of Stilwell High School and a Cherokee County resident, Clark started working for the Cherokee County Election Board on Jan. 20, 2015, as assistant secretary. After Mary Kaye Smith resigned as secretary in 2016, Clark was appointed by State Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, as her replacement. He took on the role Sept. 1, 2016.
Prior to the Cherokee County stint, Clark began working as the assistant secretary at the Adair County Election Board in May 2007. After much studying and research, Clark quickly became knowledgeable about the history of the Oklahoma State Election Board, prideful in the fact that the first "I Voted" sticker was printed in Oklahoma.
While Clark may be respected for his sincerity and election knowledge, he is also known for his creation of "Tahlequah Bow Tie Tuesday."
"I started wearing a bow tie on Tuesdays and on Election Day, just to change it up a little bit," he said. "There's a kid from Memphis - I think his name is Mo -and he started Mo's Bows, because he wanted to dress up to go to school. He started a bow tie company because he couldn't find bow ties, and I thought 'you can't find bow ties.' He had a thing called 'Bow Tie Tuesday,' and so I started on Tuesdays and I thought, 'If i don't get run out of town, I'll start wearing one every Tuesday,' and everybody now expects a bow tie on me on Tuesdays. It's just kind of become a thing and I'll take that with me, take that little piece of Tahlequah with me."
Clark also stepped down as chairman of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Steven Wright, with Wright Real Estate Century 21, will replace him.
"I'll miss working with the Chamber, being involved with Leadership Tahlequah; I love that program. I think it's one of the best things we do as a Chamber," he said. "Training young leaders - not necessarily young, but maybe young to the community - or people who have been here a long time, and they'll go through the program and they'll learn things they had no idea about our community."
Clark said he will also miss the growth of Tahlequah.
"It's exciting to hear almost on a weekly or monthly basis that somebody else is thinking about moving into the community, another business. We're growing, and with the new clinic and all of the great things that are happening, I'll be sad to not be a part of seeing that through," he said. "And I will miss the people. Some of the best relationships I've gotten started out adversarial, and I love that I've been able to make so many great friends."
Cherokee County Assistant Secretary Tiffany Rozell has been recommended for appointment by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, to replace Clark.
The State Election Board is expected to confirm her next month.
"I started training Tiffany the day she walked in the door, to take over as the secretary," Clark said. "She didn't realize that, but she started the second week of October before the 2016 general election, and she got a trial by fire right off the bat and has stepped up and has done a great job. No one has to worry about what's going to happen at the election board. It's going to continue to go just has like it always has been, if not better."
Clark wanted to thank the community for making his job easy.
"I appreciate how I've always felt like I've been part of the community. I've tried to be part of the community and have truly enjoyed my time here and the good work that we've done at the election board and at the Chamber," he said. "I'm really pleased with the direction of the Chamber and am excited to see what's going to happen. All of the things we've done here and all of the things we've done at the Chamber - it's not me, it's the community, and all of those will continue to go on without me. It'll be fine."