40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Michael Clark

Chief of Staff, Office of State Sen. Eric Lesser; Age 26

Michael Clark

Michael Clark

When asked about everything that goes into his job description and how he carries out that broad assignment, Michael Clark summoned some phrases and analogies straight from one of his boss’s top priorities at the moment — gaining expanded rail service for the Greater Springfield area.

“I keep the train on the tracks,” said Clark, who works with other members of state Sen. Eric Lesser’s staff on everything from drafting legislation to crafting press releases; from meeting with constituents to handling questions from the press. “You might say I’m the conductor.”

Putting aside the railroad terminology for a moment, Clark, who worked on Lesser’s campaign for the Senate in 2014 and eventually led that effort, said that perhaps his most important function — and it’s not written down anywhere — is to act as the senator’s sounding board.

“I spend a lot of time with him myself, and we do a lot of strategic planning,” he said, adding that there are many issues to contend with in Lesser’s extremely diverse 1st Hampden and Hampshire Senate district, one that includes Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, and other affluent suburbs, but also roughly half of Springfield and two-thirds of Chicopee, the region’s largest urban centers.

Some issues are specific to one city or town, he said, but most, like the opioid crisis, rail service, and boosting the manufacturing sector, cross all border lines.

When asked what he likes most about his broad role, Clark paused and said, in essence, everything.

Indeed, he told BusinessWest that he very much enjoys the challenge of running a political campaign — and he’s been involved with several beyond Lesser’s — but also likes the hard work that follows a race, especially the part about listening to constituents and working to address their concerns.

He does this not only in his role as Lesser’s chief of staff, but also as a member of Longmeadow’s School Committee, which is tasked with maintaining one of the state’s best school systems and serving an extremely demanding constituency.

When asked about the 2016 presidential race, shaping up as one of the most intriguing in the nation’s history, Clark, who can look at it from several angles, summoned just a single word to describe it all: crazy.

That adjective would also apply to his schedule, workload, and the sum of those efforts to keep the train on the tracks.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

— George O’Brien

Photography by Leah Martin Photography