Four-time Clayton Councilman Butch Lawter formally filed for Johnston County Commissioner Wednesday afternoon at the Johnston County Board of Elections Office in Smithfield. Lawter filed as a candidate for the District 7 seat that covers the Clayton area.
“It’s so great to be surrounded by family and supporters as I officially take this step to represent not only everyone I’ve come to serve in Clayton, but all the families and residents of Johnston County,” said Lawter, standing with his wife Kim Lawter, President of the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.
Lawter celebrated the beginning of his campaign at the Simple Twist Taproom on busy Market Street in Downtown Smithfield.
“I moved to Johnston County two decades ago and have worked to be active in the community ever since,” said Lawter, who has five grown children, who’ve all been educated in Johnston County public schools and live and work in Johnston County. “I just genuinely care about improving the lives of people in my community and bringing value for their tax dollars.”
Lawter first entered into public service 20 years ago, volunteering to serve as a member of the Town of Clayton’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. In 1999, he decided to run for office to expand his service to all departments of the town, but never abandoned his dedication to parks and recreation. As a Town Councilman he has helped guide Clayton through some incredible growth, from just under 7,000 people in 1999 to now more than 20,000.
“I have been able to combine my fiscally conservative approach to spending, with my vision of enhancing the quality of life for its residents,” said Lawter, a civil engineer, who works as Director of Environmental Services at WithersRavenel, a North Carolina-based engineering firm. “During my tenure, Clayton has developed and maintained financial goals that have resulted in improved bond ratings and very favorable financial reserves and fund balances. Yet we’ve still been able to add parks, recreation programs, facilities, cultural arts opportunities and downtown revitalization projects.”
Lawter feels his greatest strength is his compassion for Johnston County and its people. Whether it’s joining participants at an Alzheimer’s Walk, Town Square Concert, or Town Council meeting, Lawter is known for engaging people with friendly demeanor and humor, easily starting up conversations with residents to probe what their hopes and concerns for the community may be. He speaks to Boy Scout, Girl Scout and elementary school tours on a regular basis. Annually, he dons a bright red suit at not one but two hugely popular holiday events, taking special time with each and every child.
If he’s not communicating one-on-one with people, he’s reaching out to the public in the digital world. Managing accounts on almost every social media platform available, Lawter has become a go-to news source for events and activities in the community, often breaking or sharing information with the public before major outlets or even his own municipality can.
“I want people to know what’s going on and get involved. I really feel my personal skills, professional experience, and local government experience will serve the citizens of Johnston County well,” said Lawter. “My vision for Johnston County would be for our children and grandchildren to obtain a quality education; work in their chosen trade, vocation, or profession (farming to pharmaceuticals); enjoy recreational opportunities; obtain quality healthcare; and raise their families all without leaving Johnston County.”
Lawter is a member of Greater Heights Methodist Church in Clayton. He’s also served local schools, including two years as president of Cooper Elementary (Academy) PTA, speaking and volunteering at Clayton High School, Cleveland High School and Riverwood Elementary. He’s a former member of the Clayton Civitan and volunteered for Relay for Life, Special Olympics of North Carolina, the Chamber of Commerce Harvest Festival, Cleveland Christmas Parade, on the Cleveland Parks and Recreation District Committee, and also as a coach for YMCA, Clayton Little League and Clayton Parks & Recreation. He’s a strong supporter of the arts – attending and participating in Clayton Visual Arts receptions and exhibits, Clayton Youth Theater performances and fundraising, and the Clayton High School Performing Arts programs.
He was recognized as the 2016 Volunteer of the Year for Town of Clayton Downtown Development Association.
Additionally, he serves on regional and statewide planning organizations, such as the Triangle J Council of Governments, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Western Johnston Regional Water and Sewer Authority – organizations that he says have assisted him in understanding the bigger picture of how a community grows encompassing transportation, planning, engineering, building inspections, customer service, public works, emergency services and parks and recreation issues.
Spending 30 years in engineering, land development and roadway construction in central and eastern North Carolina has helped expose me to the ordinances of many other municipal and county governments. It’s given me the opportunity to interact with many departments in these local governments. I’ve participated in their rezoning and special/conditional use processes from plan submittal to approval by elected officials,” said Lawter, who holds a Bachelors in Civil Engineering from Clemson University and a Masters in Civil Engineering from NC State University.
“This experience enables me to understand the design and permitting process for projects that are essential to the strategic growth and economic development in Johnston County. I want to bring all of that to the county and plan to continue to be as active as the day I first moved to Johnston County.”
An election primary is scheduled in May, followed by the November 2018 general election.