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Hal Cloer left Ashland a better place

 Posted: 2:00 AM October 12, 2012

Last week Ashland lost one of its great patriarchs, Hal Cloer, who died at the age of 89. Hal never held political office in Ashland and no plaques bare his name, but his fingerprints are on all corners of this beautiful city.

He served on many Ashland commissions, committees and ad-hoc committees including the Planning Commission, the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee and the Charter Review Committee. He was invited to participate repeatedly because he always arrived to meetings prepared and offered thoughtful insight. Indeed, Hal believed in democracy in the best sense of the word and walked the talk all his life.

During the 1980s and through the 1990s Hal was an integral member of Ashland's League of Women Voters. Back then the Ashland League was a standing-room-only affair of politically active citizens who drafted legislation for federal, state, county and local government and whose members walked for schools, libraries and park land. Like many, Hal canvassed, put in hours on the phone to get out the vote before election night, and installed lawn signs. He helped with the Campaign for the Carnegie and the Youth Activities Levy and served as my treasurer in my final run for office.

But perhaps the greatest gift he gave Ashland was serving as the treasurer of the first Open Space campaign and thereafter as the campaign treasurer the prepared food and beverage tax. Because the treasurer's name and phone number appears at the bottom of all campaign literature, Hal had to be ready and willing to take heated calls, answer questions from the mundane to the complex, and follow through on the minutia of the job. With Hal serving as treasurer, none of us worried about the campaign landing on the front page of the paper for the wrong reasons.

No one could have handled the treasurer's post for the contentious prepared food and beverage campaign better than Hal Cloer. He deserves a lot of credit for its success and the subsequent acquisition of hundreds of acres of park land that the funds purchased. Indeed, he gave any campaign a level of integrity that pushed close elections over to the win column.

During my three terms as mayor, Hal provided me with invaluable counsel, but it wasn't just me; this kind, soft-spoken man was friends with many of us at City Hall. City Administrator Brian Almquist and department heads alike sought his counsel over a cup of coffee where they were assured of measured feedback on any issue the city was tackling. In these hours of contentious politics, it is hard to imagine a leader like Hal Cloer who engendered intelligent and civil discourse that led to better decisions.

Mark Twain once said: "Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." And indeed he did: Thank you, Hal, for everything.

Cathy Shaw is a former mayor of Ashland.

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