Experienced commissioner qualifies for re-election run after his spring appointment to District 1 seat.
Randy Clair says he’s retired.
It’s a phrase the 78-year-old has uttered many times in his 21-year residency on Longboat Key, most recently in April when town commissioners asked him to fill a District 1 vacancy.
“I’m getting old,” he said to them.
"This [job] is not for the glory of the position, as far as I’m concerned."
But that didn’t stop him from accepting the nomination and becoming the first candidate to qualify for the Town Commission’s 2018 election. Next spring’s election will be his fourth on Longboat: he’s hoping to improve his 2-1 record.
Clair last served as an island policymaker from 2005 to 2009 in one of two at-large seats before losing a second-consecutive re-election in 2009. Since then, he joined Longboat’s non-governmental Revitalization Task Force and worked as secretary for the homeowners association at Country Club Shore Unit IV, where he and Jean, his wife, have lived since 1996.
The two met more than half a century ago when the candidate — then a law student at Northwestern University — landed in the hospital with a virus. Then a nursing student, his soon-to-be girlfriend said he had to drink plenty of water with a pill doctors wanted him to take for a test in the morning.
“I almost drowned in the process,” Clair says.
The two dated off-and-on while he finished law school and have been married for 54 years, Randy says, although Jean often accuses him of getting the math wrong.
After about six years with a small defense litigation law firm in Chicago — and a few months searching for work after his bosses cut his Christmas bonus and fired him just for looking for new employment — Clair went to practice at Amoco Corporation’s International Division. He spent 27 years with the company before retiring at the ripe young age of 58.
The couple traveled along the coast west Florida in the summer of 1996 (they wanted to know how hot it could get), touring from Tampa to Naples in search of a home where they’d like to retire. Clair says they didn’t have many expectations: they wanted to be near water, beaches and a community with things to do. He doesn’t like “twiddling his thumbs,” Clair says.
Longboat fit the bill.
Clair spent his first few years on the island playing tennis, reading books and visiting with friends and family across the state. He overcame lung cancer in 2003 with the help of some surgeons in Tampa and has been free of the disease ever since.
Then some Commissioners approached him about joining their ranks. It’s only two meetings a week, he says they explained to him, although he found that it took much more than that to serve the position dutifully.
“If you’re going to do a job, you should do a good job,” Clair says. “This [job] is not for the glory of the position, as far as I’m concerned.”