The Good Old Boys Will Rejoice! Clare’s Ship Sailed with Her on Board
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
There always is one of those in every class. The self-confident, all-knowing and unbending. They are the kind of people who urge others to do right, pursue excellence and demand fairness. Clare Whitbeck was one of that kind of people.
Impatient with the go-along, get-along type of Good Ole Boys government which still reigns supreme in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Clare railed and worked against its dominance. She even ran for office several times and began to win over folks who first saw her as a ‘pushy broad.’ She was pushy. Indeed, that was one of her endearing attributes. Broad too? Yes, in terms of her interests. Clare was interested in seeing children receiving a good education and having the schools funded to the levels to bring that about. To her dying days, Clare worked to alleviate the ill-treatment that nursing home residents receive from those entrusted with their care.
From her pleasant home located near her real passion, her catamaran tied up to a dock she could walk to, she would pile her papers, pamphlets, and assorted lobbying gear and hit the highway to Annapolis. Upon her arrival, Clare would hit the bricks. From one office to another in legislative buildings, she would hunt down lawmakers to make her case for better standards and supervision of nursing homes.
Visiting the rule-makers and bureaucrats of the O’Malley Administration, Clare cited facts and figures of how the state inspectors failed to do their jobs properly and the failings of existing standards.
Clare was a survivor. She once told me, several years ago, that she had whipped cancer sixteen years earlier – twice. Since nobody gets out alive, it’s fair to say she whipped it again as she left this world on her own terms and lucky for her – she didn’t have to stay in one of Maryland’s nursing homes.
Sweet, tough and uncompromising all describe Clare as she was a complex person who could make hell rain down upon her perceived injustices and rally the troops behind her. It was good that Clare never won an election as she would have made a lousy insider in the political system. Besides, it would have been a waste of her talents to have to sit through all the boring, mundane, wasteful and moronic presentations brought before the St. Mary’s County Board of Commissioners.
Lacking an evil heart of a committed politician, Clare would have promptly left a closed and secret meeting of the commissioners and spilled the beans on all of them. The idea of having her in those meetings would be tantalizing indeed as she would have been a better county commissioner than the guy she ran against and lost. She would have been a better delegate than the fellow who defeated her in another race. While she received fewer votes in both those contests, she gave the voters a choice and that in itself was a victory. Whenever voters have a choice between corrupt Good Ole Boys government and a bright, honest and capable person, that is rare.
Clare was the best choice, there just weren’t enough smart voters to recognize it.
H. L. Mencken wrote one hundred years ago: “the common man knows what he wants and he deserves to get it, good and hard.”
Goodbye to Clare for our world is now a bit less colorful, but don’t feel bad for Clare, this angel earned her wings a long time ago.