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Commitment to community and challenges

With a long legal career behind him, Keith Clark has been narrowing his civic causes to those that present new challenges or learning opportunities. The offer to serve on the Homeland Board of Trustees intrigued him.

“Health care is an area with a great deal of moving parts right now,” he says. “This is of interest to me because it offers a new intellectual challenge. I’m also learning about the issue on the side because my mother is in a nursing home. Those two things came together.”

Keith accepted the offer and joined the Homeland Board of Trustees, bringing his considerable experience and methodical mind to the finance and strategic planning committees.

Keith is the chairman of the well-known Harrisburg law firm Shumaker Williams, P.C., where he clerked while earning his Juris Doctorate from Dickinson School of Law. He also served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Rutgers College.

Keith dove into community causes and networking “the day I  started practicing law because that’s one way I could get to know people.”

“Harrisburg in the early ‘70s was a pretty closed town, as far as breaking into society,” says Keith, who in 1972 became a shareholder in his firm and its manager. “I had to develop my own path and my own veracity in the community.”

Keith has chaired a variety of significant organizations and initiatives, including Envision Capital Region, Capital Region Economic Development Corporation (CREDC), and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

“I’ve said to young people in my firm over the years that if you’re going to get involved in boards, treat it like a client,” he says. “When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. You do it in a timely fashion and bring your skill set to that board.”

As a board member, he draws on his experience with banking, general business and corporate law, commercial real estate, mergers and acquisitions, trade associations, business planning, governance, and government relations.

That kind of wide-ranging knowledge feeds his need to be “creatively challenged” in the problem-solving realm. His varied dealings stand in contrast to today’s legal environment, where the complexities of specific areas force attorneys to specialize.

“I’m always looking for a new challenge in a new area,” he says. “When the Payment Protection Program came out recently, I determined that one of my associates and I would learn that backward and forwards because it was a new practice area.”

He joined Homeland Center’s board in September 2019, embarking on “a listening process” to learn about the organization, its rich history, and its future. During a meeting in December, he stressed the need to make strategic planning a constant effort, flexible and subject to revision as circumstances change.

“It isn’t a cast-in-stone document anymore,” he says. “It’s something you have to make into a living, breathing document as challenges arise.”

In particular, strategic planning should always consider unintended consequences.

“People want to quickly get to the answer and move on,’’ he says. “But you have to look at how your decisions interact strategically with your plans.’’

Keith’s wife, Linda Clark, is an underwriter for WITF, the Harrisburg-area public media outlet. In fact, that’s how they met. She was his firm’s WITF sales representative, but they’d only communicated by phone until mutual friends brought them together. Married 22 years, they have a son who is in his junior year at the University of Colorado, where he is a biochemistry major.

They enjoy going out to eat, something he rarely got to do as a kid in Reading. They also love attending live theater in New York and locally. COVID-19 curtailed both pursuits, so they’ve been streaming political dramas and catching up on “Masterpiece” series that they missed.

“She likes horror movies,” he says. “I don’t. She can watch those on her own.”

What he has seen of Homeland so far is “really great.” Its leadership is strong. So is its reputation.

“There is a lot of positive feeling about the organization, internally and externally by third parties,’’ he says. “I mention that I’m on the Homeland board, and people recognize the name.”

 
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