Pat Spence, 66, the Clarkdale town manager and police chief who worked to improve roads, preserve parks, and protect the people he served, died at a Phoenix hospital Feb. 9.
Born May 15, 1944, in Charleston, Ill., Spence arrived in the Verde Valley following a tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. In 1972, he joined Cottonwood Police Department as a dispatcher, working his way up to patrol officer following certification as a law enforcement officer in 1975.
Spence left the Cottonwood force to join Clarkdale Police Department in 1981. Appointment as Clarkdale chief of police quickly followed in 1982. The same year, Spence was hired as Clarkdale town manager. He filled both positions simultaneously before returning to Cottonwood as chief of police in 1996. He retired from public service in 2005.
“He was the archtypycal small town manager and police chief ,” Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig said. “He was a very good reflection of his community. He understood how our community worked and what it wanted.”
“His philosophy was, if it can be handled without putting somebody in jail, let’s get it done and solve the problem,” said Mike Baker, a former Cottonwood city councilman who was also an officer in the Clarkdale Police Department when Spence was chief.
Spence set a tone at the Clarkdale Police Department that continues to this day, Von Gausig said.
“He understood what kinds of enforcement were needed,” he said. “You’ll notice that Clarkdale doesn’t do things like setting up speed traps. It doesn’t use the police department as a revenue source. The police department is there to serve the people. It’s one of the best at doing that. Pat set that up.”
His friend of 36 years, Tom Mulcaire, said Spence worked aggressively to secure funding for town improvements. As Clarkdale town manager, Spence left a legacy of paved roads and preserved parks Clarkdale residents enjoy to his day, Mulcaire said.
“His legacy can be seen in the town’s paved roads, the preservation of the town’s parks. The things people value about Clarkdale are due in part to Pat’s caring about the community,” Von Gausig said.
“He had a knack for getting grants,” Baker said. “The guy worked hard for the [Cottonwood Police] department, fighting day in and day out along with [Cottonwood Fire Chief] Mike Casson to get the new public service building built.”
“People liked him. He was aggressive. He worked feverishly to get Clarkdale in shape,” Mulcaire said. “He got the bang out of every buck.”
Mulcaire credited Spence with preserving the town’s water supply when a massive flood threatened to wash out Clarkdale’s wastewater treatment plant in 1992.
“He got in there and got that thing stopped,” Mulcaire said. “While the water receded, he put in a new sewer line across the river.”
“I’ll always remember Pat as being an individual who didn’t shy away from any challenge,” said Spence’s longtime friend, Bill Snyder. “He was a great guy for rolling up his sleeves and tackling the problems that came up. I’ll have fond memories of Pat for as long as I am alive.”
“He was less apprecdiated and did more for his community than anybody I ever saw,” Mulcaire said.
Spence is survived by his daughter, Minda Spence, of Mesa; brother, Donald Spence, of Charleston, Ill.; sister, Virginia Lee Forman, of Charleston, Ill.; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service will be held 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at Westcott Funeral Home, 1013 E. Mingus Ave.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to VFW Post 7400, P O Box 689, Cottonwood.