Jim Thompson new OWN president; Welling Clark starting 'Westside Alliance'
As he commented at the March 28 City Council meeting, “I have not stepped down, I'm shifting gears.”
Clark is forming an umbrella group, aimed at “getting together all the Westside organizations so we can work together as a team for an integrated voice for the community,” he said. He added that his model is the Downtown Partnership, which seeks to represent downtown business and neighborhood interests.
Clark, who owns a bed-and-breakfast with his wife Sallie (who was a county commissioner for the past 12 years) and also works full-time as a defense contractor, said his new group's name is the Westside Alliance. Boundaries are not finalized, but will encompass much of the older Westside/Colorado Avenue corridor that's part of the 8,000- houseshold area that OWN has represented as a neighborhood advocacy group since 1978, according to information Clark presented to council.
Among those he wants to involve in the Alliance (in addition to OWN) are Westside developers and homeowners associations, the Old Colorado City
“When we're united, we're a pretty powerful community,” Clark said.
Thompson, a licensed contractor and property services business owner for more than 20 years, first came onto the OWN board in 2015. He was serving as secretary until the OWN Town Hall March 9, when Clark announced that he was retiring from the group.
Thompson praised Clark - who first came on the board in 2005 and had been president since 2006 - as “a pioneer behind everything. He's worked tirelessly, and continues to do that to improve the Westside.”
As for his own presidential tenure, just getting started, “I'm real excited,” Thompson said. He noted that all but two of the nine members on the board “have been there for a while,” which provides experience and continuity.
Probably the most prominent OWN event every year is the Westside Neighbors Picnic, a barbecue to which all Westside residents are invited. A change for this year's 17th annual - tentatively slated for June 25 - is to bring it back to Bancroft Park after six years at the Westside Community Center.
A key reason for that venue change is to build support for city upgrades to Bancroft Park, following the late-January fire in the bandshell. “The OWN board believes the park is extremely important to the identity of the Westside,” Thompson said.
During his 11 years, Clark worked to enhance public safety, improve networking among individuals and groups, support the Westside's historical heritage, promote tourism and keep a close watch on construction and transportation projects.
Despite the time commitment required for those efforts, he expressed no regrets. “If you care about people, it's worth it,” he said. The retired naval officer also has pledged to help Thompson during the transition period.
The OWN board meets every two months at the Westside Community Center from 6 to 8 p.m. The public is welcome. The next meeting will be May 11.
From 1978 to 2014, the nonprofit entity had received some money annually from the city through its Community Development Block Grant program. But the city has since redirected such funds to homeless-related initiatives, and OWN now relies on donations to cover costs such as the picnic and other types of public outreach.
Westside Pioneer article