Promptly after moving to Clayton in 1993, R.S. "Butch" Lawter was coaching kids in basketball, baseball and soccer. He started even before his own children were old enough to play. Over the years, he's coached hundreds, Lawter estimates.
"It's been a pile of kids," said Lawter, a Clayton parks and recreation committee member.
Some of those athletes are now high school and college students -- old enough to vote. And Lawter, 42, hopes they'll be among those casting a ballot for him on Feb. 19 in a special runoff for Clayton's final Town Council seat. Lawter will face Art Holder, 69, in a contest made necessary by a November voting glitch that gave about 20 town ballots to out-of-town residents. That error put the contest between the two men in doubt because Holder led Lawter by only three votes.
A Clayton town council member from 1999 to 2003, Lawter chose not to run for a second consecutive term because of schedule conflicts then between his work and council meetings. But such conflicts are no longer an issue, Lawter said. He thinks his prior experience on the council would allow him to hit the ground running faster than his opponent.
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Lawter said his training as a civil engineer would also be a major asset in serving Johnston County's fastest-growing town.
"My background is in infrastructure," he said. "And some of Clayton's most pressing needs are wastewater, streets and water."
Lawter works with S.T. Wooten Corp., a Wilson-based construction firm specializing in roads and other infrastructure. Since 2004, Lawter has been in charge of site development work for all of S.T. Wooten's concrete and asphalt plants in Eastern North Carolina. He helps his company clear environmental and regulatory hurdles in different municipalities for new plants and plant modifications.
That job has made him well-versed, he said, in the nitty-gritty of zoning ordinances -- a frequent subject of many town council meetings.
Lawter's employer is separate from the Raleigh-based engineering firm, The Wooten Co., which has done recent work for the town. It's been a while since his employer bid on a Clayton job, Lawter said, and if it did so while he was on town council, he would recuse himself from any vote on the project to avoid a conflict of interest.
Lawter said as a council member he would push for more new road construction and ask builders to pick up a bigger share of street projects that serve their developments.
"Clayton needs to look at putting in new streets, not just paving the ones they have," he said. "We need to team with the developers and put more burden on them."
Lawter also thinks town officials should push for a partnership with Johnston County and Raleigh on a regional wastewater treatment plant, in addition to trying to build its own new plant.
And, naturally, Lawter hopes to continue seeing parks and recreation consistently represented in the town's budget every year. He looks forward to seeing greenways expanded and more programs not only for youth but also for seniors.
"It goes to quality of life," he said. "It's not just a place to sleep. ... People want ... to walk on nice trails or play soccer."
This is the second of two profiles on Clayton Town Council candidates campaigning in a special runoff election Feb. 19. R.S. "Butch" Lawter's profile appears today; Art Holder's profile ran Wednesday.