Clendaniel recalled as a ‘quiet hero’
DENTON — Former Denton Town Council member Robert Clendaniel passed away Thursday, June 22, at Compass Regional Hospice in Centreville. He was 61.
Political colleagues and friends remembered Clandaniel as a strong advocate for the community and a quiet hero. He joined the Denton Town Council in 2006. He served as mayor in 2011 and vice mayor twice. He retired from the council in 2016. The
town honored Clendaniel at the council’s December 2016 meeting.
“He had great foresight and perspective,” said Denton Mayor Abigail McNinch. “His agenda was making sure the community and the democratic process prevailed.
“I really grew to like him and respect him,” she said. “I worked very well with him. He was the cornerstone of our town council. He was very well respected. He was a quiet hero.”
McNinch’s first experience in the political field with Clendaniel came as an opponent in the 2011. She ran as a write-in candidate against Clendaniel, but Clendaniel won the challenge.
McNinch would later join Clendaniel on the town council when she was appointed to a vacant seat in 2013.
“I really didn’t know how it would go to be on the council with someone I ran against,” she said. “To Robert’s credit, he really coached me and helped me on the council. He taught me so much. He was a mentor for a lot of elected officials.
“Over the years we would laugh about how we were opponents in an election, yet we agreed a heck of a lot more than each of us thought we would,” she said. “When he was having health issues and it was his time to be mayor, he withdrew his name and recommended me for a second term as mayor. That really meant a lot to me. That was one of the biggest honors I’ve had for him to recommend me.”
McNinch said Clendaniel’s legacy will be his respect for the democratic process and his advocacy for the community.
“He was a stickler for the process,” she said. “He would never take a chance and rush an item through to meet a deadline. He didn’t want to get the town, the taxpayers in trouble by agreeing to a bad deal without all the information.
“Election Night for Robert was the Super Bowl,” she said. “He was fascinated by the Democratic process and politics. He knew worldwide politics. It was just really interesting to get his perspective on things. You always knew that he cared.”
Born in Seaford, Del., on July 23, 1955, Robert was the son of the late Lindsay Edmonds Clendaniel and Anne Louise Chaffinch Clendaniel, and his late stepmother, D. Faye Clendaniel. He was a 1973 graduate of North Caroline High School. He lived most of his life in Denton.
Clendaniel was the owner and operator of Business Internet Systems LLC in Denton. He also was ver y involved in local and state Republican politics, and a member of the Caroline County Republican club.
“We mourn the passing of our colleague and friend Robert Clendaniel this morning,” the Caroline Republican club posted on its Facebook page. “Robert valiantly battled cancer and continued to volunteer and support the Central Committee and local representatives in spite of his declining health.
“We all feel a tremendous sense of loss with his passing but have solace in knowing that Robert was comfortable and without pain as he passed,” the statement said. “The time that we shared with Robert will be treasured and honored as a true blessing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Carol and their family.”
State Sen. Addie Eckardt, R37-Mid-Shore, credited Clendaniel for helping her run for the House of Delegates.
“He was really instrumental with helping my campaign,” she said. “We then encouraged him to run for local office, and I was really glad he did because Robert helped the town of Denton and Caroline County to a better place.
“He always had the citizens at heart,” she said. “He always put the citizens first. We are going to miss him. We are all better off because of Robert.”
Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caroline, served as a Caroline County Commissioner during Clendaniel’s tenure on the Denton Town Council.
“He has always been a fiscal conser vative,” Ghrist said. “He was a huge stalwart for the taxpayers, especially when it came budget time. He was great at scratching the surface of every nickel.”
Ghrist recalled how during his first term as county commissioner he was a bit jealous of Clendaniel.
“For sometime, he had more power than I did as a county commissioner,” he said. “He had the ear of Jack Cole for so long. He had a lot of influence at the county level. He had a big impact on policy, not just for the town of Denton but countywide as well.
“Robert was a class act,” he said. “I would reach out to him for advice. He had the community at heart.”
Clendaniel’s influence extended into other municipalities in Caroline County.
“Robert would always make time for small talk,” said Ridgely Town Commissioner Anthony Casey. “Whether it was about world or local affairs. He was someone you could turn to for advice when I had no idea what I was doing and no one else was willing to help.
“He really wanted to see people to succeed,” he said. “I am so glad I was able to meet Robert and have him mentor me in local government.”
Clendaniel is sur vived by his wife, Carol Clendaniel of Denton; a stepsister, Deborah Fitzgerald; two stepbrothers, Ronald Lee Cook and Kevin B. Cook; an uncle, R. Shelby Clendaniel of Cambridge; and several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 3, at the Christ Episcopal Church on Gay Street in Denton, where friends may visit from 10:30 to 11 a.m. before the service.
The interment will be private.
ROBERT L. CLENDANIEL
Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood, left, and Denton Town Councilman Robert Clendaniel, middle, talk with Larry Hogan during Hogan’s Gubernatorial campaign in June 2014.