Colonel Gary Clark - USAF (Retired) - Lakeland, FL

Over 50,000 veterans call Polk County, Florida home. It is no exaggeration to claim that Gary Clark, through his tireless work on their behalf, has touched the lives of nearly every one of those men and women. The Polk County Veterans Council, under Gary’s leadership, has served as the beacon of advocacy for these patriots for over 20 years. As detailed above, Gary’s influence is not restricted to just one or two segments of our veteran – and active duty – populations. Let’s look at the individuals and groups that have experienced the “Colonel Clark” touch: Students: Gary has been instrumental in forging a strong partnership with the Polk County School Board in its administration of 13 JROTC units. These units, representing the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, routinely participate in community events, from Color Guards to parades. He organizes the annual JROTC Banquet where awards and scholarships are given to deserving cadets. The result has been a dramatic increase in awareness of what these young men and women mean to our community. Passionate about education, Gary arranges for veterans to speak to classes about this country’s military history, coordinating directly with school administrators and principals.

He has served as the Chairman for our local Congressional District’s Service Academy Selection Board, appointed to this post by the last three men elected to Congress from this district. This board process has resulted in a great number of our best and brightest students given the opportunity to serve our nation as commissioned officers. Thanks to Gary’s leadership, Florida’s 15th Congressional District has produced a number of West Point, US Naval Academy, US Air Force Academy, and Merchant Marine Academy graduates.

Young Veterans: America has been at war continuously for the last 18 years, with thousands of Polk County men and women volunteering to serve. Most come back and enter civilian life seamlessly, becoming productive citizens. A few, however, go astray. Gary Clark initiated a Veterans Mentor Program in partnership with Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit’s

Veteran’s Treatment Court: Through enlisting mentors to work with veterans who are enrolled in the court’s diversionary program, young men and women are given the opportunity to straighten their lives out without falling into a life of brushes with the law at best, a life of crime at worst. Judge Susan L. Barber, Tenth Circuit County Judge, has this to say about Gary Clark:

“I have watched Colonel Clark take the lead as a recruiter of volunteer veteran mentors for the court system over the past several years and have had the pleasure of watching him interact with his fellow veterans as a leader and role model. I have witnessed firsthand his compassion, dedication, and heart for helping veterans of this community.”

Homeless Veterans: Sadly, Polk County has more than its share of homeless, including veterans. The Polk County Veterans Council, under Gary’s leadership, partners with local charities in locating and providing help to homeless veterans, as well as veterans needing emergency aide to avoid becoming homeless. He established a comprehensive electronic network of veterans and supporters of veterans. Regular e-mails are sent out alerting this network about veterans in need. The response has been inspiring. These emails generate solutions from finding affordable housing to providing food and household goods, to volunteering transportation for medical appointments, to paying utility bills. It is amazing to observe how the citizens of this county respond to Gary’s emails.

The Greatest Generation:

In addition to the six Flight to Honor Flights detailed above, Gary has found other, innovative ways to recognize the heroes who fought in WWII. He partners with the Detroit Tigers during their Spring Training games where WWII veterans are celebrated by throwing out the first pitch of every game. Recently a feisty 100-year old former sailor threw out the first pitch to the raucous cheers of fans. These moments never become stale as thousands of fans stand and cheer these heroes of the past. Gary Clark is the person responsible for these memorable moments. He also led the successful effort to build the “WWII Plaza” in Lakeland’s Veterans Memorial Park. This beautiful part of the park offers a peaceful, reflective place for visitors to learn about and pay tribute to these 20th century heroes and patriots.

Gary Clark’s significant contributions to the State of Florida encompass civic leadership, extraordinary public service, and unequivocal commitment to veterans. The results of his tireless efforts for 30 years, however, extend far beyond support for veterans. His ultimate contributions are embodied in his efforts to integrate veterans into the community while increasing awareness to the citizens of Polk County of their service and sacrifice. Gary is a veteran, a businessman, a Rotarian, a community activist, and, above all, a leader. By his example, he has demonstrated to all of us that service to one’s country and community does not end when the uniform comes off. This is a man whose contributions to the State of Florida clearly earns him hall of fame status.


1967 – Kansas State University

  • Bachelor’s Degree, Cum Laude. Major: Mathematics

1969 – Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT)

  • Master’s Degree, Systems Analysis (Operations Research) 

1970 – Air Force Squadron Officers School, Maxwell AFB, AL
1973 – Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, D.C. 
1975 – Air Command & Staff College, Maxwell AFB, AL
1983 – National War College, Washington, D.C.

  • Master’s Degree Equivalent, International Policy and Diplomacy 

1984 – Honeywell Corporation, Phoenix, Arizona

  • Computer Concepts for Executives

1986 – University of Texas

  • Advanced Leadership Seminar for Executives Graduate School of Business 

1995 – Public Pension Trustee Certification
2001 – Florida State University

  • Public Manager Certification

2008 – Uniform Investment Adviser Certification (Series 65)



  • 2007 to Present – Financial Advisor, CPS Investment Advisors, Lakeland, Florida


1993 to 2006 Director, Civil Service and Retirement, City of Lakeland, Florida 

  • Responsible for recruiting, testing, evaluating and promoting current and prospective employees for the City of Lakeland.
  • Executive Director for $450 million employees’ pension fund, $32 million police officer and firefighter supplemental funds and $42 million deferred compensation program. Administrators to 3000 active and retired employees.
  • Conducts in-depth studies of pension benefit options and costs. Utilizes actuarial inputs to structure alternative plan designs. Prepares annual reports for State of Florida acceptance.
  • Serves as coordinator and instructor in a Trustee Certification program sponsored by a Florida wide professional organization.


1991 to 1993 Director: Manpower, Personnel and Administration, US Central Command, MacDill AFB, Florida 

  • One of six senior directors (Vice-President equivalent) responsible for all aspects of personnel and support activities for a $52 billion security assistance program in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
  • Prior to the Desert Shield Operation, formulated and executed the administrative support plan to relocate a 1,000 – person headquarters 8,000 miles to Saudi Arabia. Negotiated host country support of computer, reproduction and audio-visual equipment, as well as contracting for maintenance through local vendors, requiring a replacement employee back-up plan, an effort in excess of $1 million monthly.
  • Accomplishment: Reduced to a single location from 19 separate countries administrative and logistics support for 460 personnel assigned to security assistance offices, under embassy sponsorship, resulting in annual savings of $350,000.

1990 to 1991 Director of Personnel: Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Saudi Arabia

  • Senior personnel official assigned directly to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, accountable for planning movement and providing support to the 540,000 deployed military and civilian personnel.
  • Organized 194 postal operations that processed 65 million pounds of mail in six months.
  • With limited infrastructure support, organized distribution of over 500 tons of donations to the forces throughout the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Produced a theater-wide entertainment program by coordinating and directing the efforts of the USO, Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office, and the personal organizations of Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Bob Hope, Gerald McRaney, Delta Burke, Thomas Hearns and Ann Jillian to bring these entertainers to Saudi Arabia.
  • Orchestrated program options for the Bob Hope TV Christmas Show transforming an austere environment with limited support resources into a production advantage. Briefed Desert Shield/Storm issues on CNN Live.
  • Planned/directed the repatriation of 21 Iraqi-held US Prisoners of War, negotiating with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Government of Saudi Arabia, and Iraqi officials. Directed the accountability for missing-in-action personnel, organized research efforts of intelligence sources in locating crash sites and subsequent site visits in Kuwait and Iraq.

1989 to 1990 Director of Manpower and Personnel, US Central Command, MacDill AFB, Florida

  • Senior director with an 85-member staff, tasked to man and support military sales experts totaling over 2,000 in 13 Middle Eastern countries involving more than $40 billion in assistance.

1987 to 1989 Installation Commander, Comiso AFS, Italy

  • Directed a force of 1,600 military, civilian and Italian national personnel with an $ 18 million operations budget supporting a population of 3,800 plus.
  • Accomplishments:
    – A quality, customer oriented full range support program
    – Returned $2 million to the Air Force
  • Responsible for construction oversight of 920 family housing units totaling $65 million construction and $8 million per year in lease costs. Directed the construction of a $2.1 million retail facility by comprehensive negotiating with host country, Italy. 
  • Produced a concept, designed a plan, secured $186,000 in funding to relocate and upgrade facilities scheduled for demolition, and created an arts and crafts center. 
  • Accomplishment:
    – Saved 80% of new construction cost; completed in less than three months.
  • Aired an informative weekly TV program to the 3,800 service people and dependents.

1986 to 1987 Director of Personnel, Air Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas

  • Led and directed all aspects of personnel operations
    – 230 person staff; 79,000 person organization, 13 major and 85 minor locations

1983 to 1986 Director: Personnel Plans, Programs and Analysis, Air Force Militaiy Personnel

  • Responsible for futuristic personnel planning; organization credited with major personnel innovations implemented in the Air Force in the 1980s.
  • Directed a “skunk works” staff of 170, including 74 advanced degree scientific and technical professionals.
  • Directed the concept development, design and congressional funding of a $120 million effort to implement a management information system at over 100 locations.
  • Accomplishment:
    – This state-of-the-art project reduced manpower needs 18%, saving 1,537 billets.

1978 to 1982 Advisor to the US Air Force Chief of Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

  • Primary advisor to the senior military officer of the Air Force. Expert on matters of compensation, retirement, recruiting, promotion, force management and welfare impacting military and civilian personnel.
  • Drafted legislative proposals and testimony for Congress.

1973 to 1978 Chief: Personnel Analysis Division, Air Force Military Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas
1972- 1973 Chief: Air Targeting Analyst; Task Force Alpha planner; 56th Special Operations Wing
1973 South Vietnam & Thailand
1969 to 1972 Head C-5 Aircraft engine reliability engineer 


Listed below is a list of Gary Clark’s many activities in support of veterans but former Florida State Representative, US Congressman, and Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, best summarizes the extent of this servant leader’s impact:

“Gary Clark’s service to Florida veterans is in a league of its own. He is a force of nature, dedicating his life to helping fellow veterans, honoring the fallen, and reminding business and community leaders that our nation owes these men and women a debt of gratitude. …He comforts those in need, guides them to services and is always available to help them navigate the path. I believe every waking moment Gary is focused on helping his fellow veterans and his track record proves it.”

Likewise, former State Representative and US Congressman Dennis Ross gives his measure of this man:

“Gary Clark has dedicated his life to the American Military. He has been instrumental in recruiting the best and brightest young adults for service to America, as Chairman of my Military Academy Congressional Appointments Committee. Gary has been the life-saving link between various veterans and their need of supportive care and treatment from the Veterans Administration. He has dedicated several years of leading a multitude of Flights to Honor for our veterans to visit Washington, DC, in order to experience the recognition and respect they so deserve for their dedication to our country. In short, Gary’s passion for the United States and its defenders of freedom is a shining example of modern- day unselfish patriotism exhibited by our Founding Fathers. Gary is truly a great American.”

Notable about Gary’s commitment to veterans is the scope of his activities, demonstrating his passion for the full spectrum of the veterans community from youngsters seeking selection to one of the Service Academies, to Gold Star Families, to WWII veterans. Many of the organizations listed below were actually founded by Gary, including the Polk County Veterans Council, which has acted as the nexus for veterans organizations and activities throughout Polk County for 20 years. He singlehandedly led the effort to establish a “Flight to Honor” taking local veterans to Washington D.C. from the Lakeland Linder Airport. Five flights have taken place with another scheduled for later this year. He has organized volunteers, negotiated contracts with airlines, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. These flights have changed lives as shown in a letter from the daughter of a WWII veteran. 

“I witnessed what 1 never thought I would ever see—a combat Marine cry. My father cried last night when he returned [from the Flight to Honor.] Thank you so much.”

Gary Clark’s commitment to veterans is dramatically evidenced by the sheer number and breadth of the below list of his past and current membership in organizations.

  • Polk County Veterans Council, Chairman
  • Congressman Ross Spano’s Service Academy Nomination Committee Chairman
  • Congressman Ross Spano’s Veterans Advisory Committee
  • Florida Veterans Foundation, Vice Chairman, Board Member and District Director
  • Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Member of Board of Directors & Chairman, Investment Committee
  • Imperial Polk County Chapter MOAA, President
  • Air Force Association member
  • Sun & Fun, Veterans Plaza Chairman
  • American Legion Post 4 member
  • Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1040
  • Detroit Tigers Spring Training Veteran & JROTC Color Guard Coordinator Lakeland Rotary Club, Military Affairs Chairman
  • Flight To Honor Polk, Chairman
  • James A Haley VA Hospital Advisory Board
  • 10th Circuit Court Veteran Behavioral Court Coordinator


Never one to stand back and let others carry the load, Gary is more often than not on the forefront of issues affecting his community. Howard Wiggs, former Lakeland mayor, has this to say about Gary: “During my 25 years as an elected official in Lakeland, the last 4 years as mayor, I never met anyone who was more dedicated to improving the lives of veterans than Colonel Gary Clark. He is one of those unique leaders who goes beyond identifying the needs of Veterans; he consistently has provided the leadership to find solutions for those needs. He truly stands as a beacon of hope for our veterans and I applaud his efforts.” His influence extends beyond the city limits of Lakeland as expressed by these comments from Timothy Pospichal, Mayor of Auburndale, FL.

“ Gary has brought to our city the yearly JROTC Cadet Challenge, which encompasses over 13 schools in Polk County with over 4,000 enrolled young people. “… Gary is one of the finest men I know. He makes Polk County, Florida and the United States a better place…. ”

As the list below reveals Gary’s contributions to the community extend to First Responders, sportsmen and women, businesses. Persons With Disabilities, and students. A long-time member of the Lakeland Rotary Club, this is an individual who truly lives by Rotary’s commitment to Service to Others.

  • Career Source Polk/Polk Works Board Member o Chair, Business Competitiveness Committee
  • Winter Haven Firefighters Pension Board Trustee
  • National Rifle Association member
  • Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, Business VOICE Committee
  • Lakeland Rotary Club
  • Summerlin Academy, Chief, Advisory Board
  • United Way of Central Florida Mission United Advisory Council
  • United Way Suncoast Mission United Advisory Council 
  • Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility Committee Member


  • 2009 Military Officers of America (MOOA) Recognition for serving on the National Board and Chairing the Investment Committee.
  • 2010 Florida Southern College ROTC Veteran Leadership Award
  • 2011 Warrior Walk Leadership Award
  • 2017 Lakeland, FL Citymaker Award
  • 2018 Career Source Polk Larry Miller award 2018 for Exemplary Leadership, Vision & Integrity
  • 2018 Haines City, FL Veteran of the Year
  • 2019 Florida State Society Daughters of the American Revolution “Outstanding Service to Veterans” Award