Remembering Tom Clay
Tom Clay joined the Citizens Research Council of Michigan staff in 1997 following a long career in state government. It was clear from the beginning that it was a perfect fit. By training and temperament, he was made for the kind of work that CRC does.
A native Hoosier, Tom was educated in the Indianapolis public schools. He was graduated from Miami University in Ohio and did his graduate work at Michigan State University. Moving into state government, it was obvious that he was a talent to be reckoned with, rapidly rising to become director of the state budget division under Governor William G. Milliken. Over the next three decades, he held several responsible positions, finally retiring from state government in 1997 as deputy state treasurer.
With his engaging personality, Tom soon ingratiated himself with CRC staff, board, and supporters, and a new chapter in his career was underway.
Tom became CRC director of state affairs, a principal responsibility of which was to monitor the state budget. He soon detected troubling signs, which led to CRC becoming the first organization to recognize the existence of a structural deficit in the state budget that would create serious problems by Fiscal Year 2004. Although many policymakers were skeptical, it gradually became painfully obvious that Tom was right, establishing him as the go-to expert in state finances for the next several years.
Tom was in demand for presentations on the budget problem by civic groups, governmental agencies, educational institutions, and the media. His hundreds of public appearances in every part of the state broadened both his and CRC’s reputation for credibility and integrity. Recognizing this, in early 2006, Governor Jennifer Granholm offered him the position of State Treasurer. But, in CRC he had found a professional home from which he ultimately retired in 2008.
Tom was so dedicated to his tasks and so focused on Michigan’s problems that few people were aware of the struggle he was waging. In the end, he had spent nearly one-fifth of his life with cancer. Yet, his good humor and optimism were so much a part of him that, even if you were aware of his burden, it was easy to pass it over.
As CRC approaches its 100th anniversary, it is natural to put things in perspective. That perspective will show that Tom Clay helped to make virtually everything he touched better, whether it was state government, the Citizens Research Council, or the many volunteer organizations with which he worked. A finer legacy he could not have wished.