Tom Clark worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources before becoming Central Arizona Project’s first General Manager in 1981. He retired from this position in 1995.

Tom Clark: The First CAP General Manager

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

When he graduated from the University of Arizona with his Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics, Tom Clark saw a posting that the Bureau of Land Management was looking for an agricultural economist, so he headed to Phoenix to apply. However, the address he went to turned out to be the Bureau of Reclamation.

“I said, well I might as well interview with these people and I went in and they hired me,” Clark said. “So, so much for career planning. I don’t know it just sort of happened that way.”

He immediately started working on repayment studies related to the Central Arizona Project, part of the team that was working toward getting Congressional approval for construction.

“I was lucky enough to be in there with some of the first,” Clark said. “There had been things that went on before that, but that was I think the really start of serious number crunching.”

He met many influential Arizona water leaders, and when Central Arizona Project Association president Hank Raymond approached him about helping the association, so he moved to Arizona. He then worked under Wes Steiner as the Assistant Director at the Interstate Stream Commission, which ultimately became the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

And, in 1981 when the Central Arizona Water Conservation District started to hire staff, Clark was the first paid position…as General Manager.

“I was the whole organization there for a few days,” Clark said. “But I took a couple of people from the Department of Water Resources with me and we began to hire and when I left I think we had about 400 people, so we built an organization.”

Clark said the job was a challenge, but one he liked.

“I’ve never really been as interested in why the water goes through a pump as to why the people are willing to put it through the pump,” Clark said.

He focused on people, even signing payroll checks occasionally just to keep in touch with, and know, the employees.

“I’d get a report that said somebody did a real good job on something and I’d call them at home and say, ‘Hey I’m sitting here and saw what you did and it was great and thanks a lot,’” Clark said. “I tried to relate to the individuals and I enjoyed that.

Clark retired as CAP’s first General Manager in 1995.

Read Tom Clark's Oral History Transcript
Listen to Tom Clark's Interview