How an Oglethorpe Biology/Chemistry Major Became Mayor

On Tuesday, November 7, the voters of Commerce, Ga. made a major decision. They elected their first new mayor in over 20 years as J. Clark Hill ’93 took 737 of the 1,095 votes cast.

Hill defeated both veteran City Councilman Donald Wilson and former Commerce Mayor Tommy Stephenson for the job. Clark, a local physician has also served as Ward 4 city councilman and chairman of the Downtown Development Authority. Jonathan Milford ’00, who owns an Allstate insurance agency in Commerce, was first to call me with the exciting development. 

Jonathan and other business leaders in the community feel strongly that Clark is the best choice to represent their interests and lead Commerce out of economic uncertainty. They trust he will bring inspired leadership to Commerce based on his strong character, integrity, caring and generosity for others. One local business leader said that, “going to the polls to vote for someone like Clark Hill for Mayor means your town won the lottery.”

Clark will replace outgoing Mayor Buzzie Hardy, who is retiring after more than two decades as Commerce’s mayor. “Commerce is at a critical point in its history with high unemployment and most new jobs going to the west side of Jackson County,” Hill said in an email over the weekend. He wants to modernize city hall; rebuild relationships with other local governments, schools and business groups; and reclaim the city’s status as an industrial and manufacturing hub in the I-85 corridor.

During the next few years, key city employees like the town’s long-time manager, clerk and recreation department director also are retiring, making the time a pivotal one for the city, he said. “Recruitment of qualified replacements and having a smooth transition will be paramount to our success,” Hill said.

Knowing Clark as an Oglethorpe undergrad student I never imagined this professional path for him. I knew he wanted to help others through medicine but it’s great to see what a difference his consistent caring spirit makes on those around him. It’s interesting too how his Oglethorpe experience may have nurtured his current professional and political path. 

Here’s a snapshot of Clark:

Councilman J. Clark Hill III received his BA in Biology/Chemistry from Oglethorpe in 1993. He is a 1997 graduate of Mercer University School of Medicine and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Atlanta Medical Center. He moved to Commerce in 2001 to start an Internal Medicine practice. Dr. Hill owns Hill Medical Group, PC. Dr. Hill is married to Doreen (Hart) from Savannah and they have three daughters: Emily, Maggie, and Callie. Dr. Hill has served on the Commerce Downtown Development Authority since 2005 and is the current Chairman of the Board. He is a 2003 Leadership Jackson County graduate, current member and past president of the Commerce Kiwanis Club and serves on the Board of Directors of First Georgia Banking Company.

John Breton ’97 is Clark’s SAE fraternity brother.

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