When Jeff Clarke, CEO of KQED Public Broadcasting and longtime private pilot, entertains visitors, he gives them a literal bird’s-eye view of the county. “You fly out of Gnoss, head east and cross the ridge for a look at Infineon Raceway at Sears Point, cross the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge, pass between Angel Island and Alcatraz with San Francisco off your left wing, fly over the Golden Gate Bridge and then along the Pacific to Point Reyes lighthouse and back to Gnoss,” he says. “There’s nothing like it.” Since moving here in 2002, Clarke has also been flying back and forth to Sugar Land Regional Airport, five minutes from his home in Houston, Texas, which is where he will land indefinitely once his replacement is found at KQED.
This past June, after a successful run in the Bay Area heading up the award-winning public radio and TV stations (KQED won seven Northern California Emmy Awards last May), Clarke announced his retirement from broadcasting. Besides his day job, Clarke served as a governor of the Commonwealth Club of California, a trustee of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and a founding member of the Family Violence Prevention Fund in San Francisco. By this time next year, as he settles back into what he describes as the flat environs and both tropical and politically conservative climate of Houston, we hope he looks back wistfully to a fruitful era at the helm of the number-one PBS and NPR station and a time when getting to work meant partaking in one of his favorite activities: crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Why Marin? The open spaces, landscapes (and) community feel of Southern Marin, along with reasonable commutes for both my wife and me to the city each day and good timing in the real estate market, helped us decide to make Marin home.
What will you miss about Marin? I’ll miss the climate most, given Mill Valley’s wonderfully moderate temperatures.
What do you value every day? Being able to do what I love as a professional and the opportunity of working to make a difference in folks’ lives via public broadcasting as well as the joy and love of a great family and network of friends who have made my life’s journey fulfilling and rewarding.
What is your personal idea of luxury? The luxury of free time coupled with judicious use of our resources has allowed us the luxury of travel around the world, as well as the pursuit of my passion to be an aviator.
What person has influenced you the most? My father. Dad taught me how to enjoy the simple things in life, to be proud of our life’s work regardless of what type of work you chose to do, to give back to the community, to care for and love my family and most important, when and how to relax.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your work? There have been many. From spinning my first record and reporting my first newscasts on WCWC-AM/FM in 1965 to producing documentaries and anchoring around the country. Becoming a CEO at Houston PBS in May 1992 and at KQED in 2002. And presiding over KQED Heritage Celebrations, where we honor local heroes from the diverse communities throughout the Bay Area seven times a year.
What’s your desert-island favorite book or album? I’m a big fan of live performance, so the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over concert DVD is my choice for desert-island musical enjoyment. As a reader I’m more inclined to enjoy nonfiction works, so my choices would range from David Kennerly’s The Shooter, about life as a photojournalist as well as his time as President Ford’s White House photographer, to Dan Rather’s saga of growing up in Houston to Henry Aaron’s account of a great baseball and life story. Just for fun I also might sneak one of Jim Lehrer’s novels onto the island.
Do you have a favorite Marin view? Sitting on the bench on the southwest corner of DeSilva Island looking through the Sausalito harbor past Alcatraz to the San Francisco skyline. It’s spectacular any time of year.
What’s your favorite place to unwind? Airborne over America’s stunning beauty. There is a peace of mind as well as a feeling of great accomplishment when you are flying at altitude enjoying the landscapes below.
What do you like about yourself? My optimistic life view, my sense of humor and my longevity on this earth.
How do you want to be remembered? As a person who cared about others and made a difference in people’s lives through his work, his volunteerism and his passion for life.