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‘Pink Shoes’ Remark

Caused Clark Oliver

To Get Into Politics

Editor’s Note: This is the last of three profiles of new members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives who will take office Jan. 1.

Clark Oliver at SUNY Oneonta, where he recently graduated, making him the youngest person ever elected to the county board. (James Cummings/

By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to

ONEONTA – It was in elementary school that Clark Oliver realized he would always have to fight for what he believed in.

“Maybe if your kid didn’t wear pink shoes, he wouldn’t get bullied,” a teacher told Oliver’s mom, Karen.

“I was a young gay person,” he said. “Growing up in this town was hard. I experienced bullying at different times in elementary school and that was my catalyst. I want any kid to wear pink shoes and be safe in school.”

And years later, that moment would be one of many that inspired Oliver to venture into politics, now becoming the youngest Otsego County Board member in the history of the county.

“More than just voting matters, activism and direct involvement matters,” he said.
But it wasn’t until 2012, when gay marriage was legalized, that Oliver recognized the influence of politics.

“I knew the fight that was going on. I knew that gay people couldn’t get married in many parts of this country, but I saw the White House lit up in rainbow and I realized that people we had elected did that and that voting matters,” he said. “That was the moment I realized the power of politics.”

Oliver, an Oneonta native, attended Valleyview Elementary from kindergarten to fifth grade, before going on the national tour with “101 Dalmatians,” playing one of the puppies.

He graduated from Oneonta High School in 2016 and recently graduated from SUNY Oneonta. During that time, he decided to join the Young Democrats and by August, became the president.

“I wanted to make sure that Democrats were better represented in Otsego County. When I became president, there were four Democrats and 10 Republicans on county board. That disproportionate of a tilt was not OK with me.”

For Oliver, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the election of Donald Trump in 2016. “I had a large desire to do more after I saw the election of Donald Trump and the dysfunction in Washington,” he said.

His idea was the Young Democrats would help hold back the Republican majority in Otsego County in the fall of 2017.

“We now have seven Republicans and seven Democrats,” he said. “The Young Democrats were the primary driving force behind that shift. We enacted a ground game that hadn’t been present before – knocking on doors and organizing phone banks. We also had a candidate in 13/14 districts. It was unprecedented.”

Afterwards, he spent time helping Brian Flynn during his Congressional Primary campaign in the spring of 2018 and later managed Joyce St. George’s state Senate campaign.

“We increased the Democratic vote share by 10 percent and I’m really proud of that,” he said.

When Gary Koutnik retired from county board in early 2019, he endorsed Oliver.
“I prioritize and want to encourage youth involvement in politics. I wanted to show young people that they’re just as qualified, just as capable as anyone in office.”

Clark has plans for when he takes his seat in January, starting with the county administrator position.

“Now that it has passed, I want to make sure that we hire the right person. I would like to see it be someone outside of county government,” the new representative said.


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