Person of the Week
David Bautz: Taking an Active Role in Preserving History
David Bautz has served several roles for the Clinton Historical Society, including time as president when the society acquired a historic smokehouse that now rests behind the group’s headquarters, Old Brick. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News)
Much as an engineer is always trying to learn processes to better understand why things happen, so too does a historian try to study the past to understand the present. As an engineer and a member of Clinton’s Historic Society (CHS), David Bautz understands both urges.
David says that he has been a member of the historic society for about 15 years. It was actually his wife who volunteered him for the role David recalls.
“My wife joined the garden club and the president of the society asked if she’d joined and she said, ‘No ,but my husband would.’ So here I am,” David says with a chuckle.
In his time with CHS, David has spent six years as a docent, four years as president, and is now responsible for the buildings and grounds run by CHS. During his time as president, David says his duties were to “basically organize the yearly direction of the society.”
David says that entails making sure that events happen, advancing society goals, and occasionally getting involved with advocating for the preservation of historic structures. A highlight of his term as president was in 2017 when a historic smokehouse was acquired from St. Alexis Orthodox Church in Clinton and added to the CHS headquarters affectionately known as Old Brick.
“It’s fitting for our campus. We’ve even used it a couple of times at events,” says David.
Eventually David’s time as president ended, but David, who calls himself a handyman around the house, has remained with CHS in his current role overseeing the buildings and grounds. It’s a role he says that suits him.
“I’m in charge of hiring contractors and making sure things are up to snuff. It’s an old building, so it’s important to take care of it,” David says.
For his favorite part of being involved with CHS, David says it’s the people.
“We have volunteers doing amazing things. I think the spirit of the volunteers and effort they put into fulfilling our mission” is remarkable, David says.
Another happy memory is what used to be known as Pierson Day, when the 4th graders would come to CHS to learn about different aspects of history and see the artifacts.
As one might expect of a 15-year CHS member, David takes the mission of CHS—to educate the townspeople on their history—very seriously.
“A real passion of mine is educating the town and the youth. That mission is really important and we’re proud to do it,” says David.
David proudly touts the displays and resources available at CHS headquarters, the museum room at Town Hall, and the different events held at the library as ways the organization works to achieve their mission.
“I view history as a light too see into the future. As Winston Churchill said, those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it,” says David.
David admits that sometimes balancing his personal obligations with work at the society is hard, but for him it’s a labor of love.
“I’m just fascinated with history,” says David.
David actually minored in history and majored in sociology in college but says both are hobbies now. For his career David was an engineer, a job he enjoyed and one where he sees lots of similarities between his work and his interest in history.
“As an engineer I’m obsessed with processes and I’m someone interested in what people in history used to do to meet life’s challenges,” explained David.
“I like figuring out how we solve problems to make good things happen,” he adds. “I’ve always been very civic minded wherever I lived.”
David grew up in Stratford but has called Clinton home since 1998.
“I loved the small-town atmosphere. I just love being here, it reminded me of where I grew up in a neighborhood by the shore in Stratford,” David says.
In his spare time David spends his day landscaping or woodworking.
For David, seeing the way the citizens in Clinton rally around different community events and their enthusiasm to do so is his favorite part.
“The spirit and participation of the citizens is outstanding,” says David.
David says he particularly notices the camaraderie during vents like Memorial Day or Christmas in Clinton.
“I like that small town feel where everyone seems to know each other or the next person,” says David.