County council selects SCHS alum Lawson as administrator

Sussex County residents now know who the next county administrator will be, after six months of consideration of the candidates and qualifications for the job. And he’s a hometown boy.

The Sussex County Administrator Search Committee voted on Tuesday to recommend the hiring of Sussex Central High School alumnus Todd Lawson to succeed retiring County Administrator David Baker, with a transitional period to begin Aug. 10 and Lawson to take over the job no later than Jan. 1., 2012.

Baker noted that Lawson grew up in Sussex County and said he was “anxious to return.” Lawson’s father and brother run a produce stand near their family farm in Harbeson, and he graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management, with a minor in political science.

Lawson went on to earn a law degree from the George Mason School of Law in Northern Virginia. Lawson served during the George W. Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where, Baker said, he oversaw various offices and assisted with the development of budgets.

He also worked at the Balch & Bingham and Russ Reid law firms, in the Washington, D.C., area as a policy advisor and lobbyist for clients. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Lawson’s lobbying clients as predominantly healthcare providers, health services/HMOs and hospitals/nursing homes, as well as the education industry, civil servants and public officials, as well as the energy industry.

His clients included Ability Beyond Disability, American Optometric Association, Atlanta Christian College, Bacone College, Center Union Mission, Central Washington Hospital, Chronic Disease Fund, Covenant House, Daystar University, Edison2, Epworth Village, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Maine Maritime Academy, Manchester College, Ohio Christian University, Operation Smile, Pacific Clinics, Salt Lake County in Utah, University of Evansville and Village of Kiryas Joel, N.Y.

Baker noted particularly that Lawson has experience dealing with people and organizations, as well as a local Sussex County background. The 36-year-old, married father of two grew up in the Georgetown area.

Lawson’s starting pay during the transition period will be $95,000, with a full one-year contract at $102,500 to start as of Jan. 1.

Lawson was reported to be one of three candidates on a final list before the committee, which included all five council members, Baker and County Attorney Everett Moore. The committee had interviewed eight applicants, from among two dozen applicants with varied backgrounds from across the country who had submitted résumés for the position following Baker’s retirement announcement in January.

Identified as “Candidate O,” Lawson was the only one of the three candidates to gain full support from the committee, and he received unanimous support from the council on Tuesday, with a 5-0 vote to approve his appointment as the incoming county administrator.

“It’s great to be back,” Lawson said upon his appointment. “I am honored to be selected as county administrator, and look forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens of Sussex County.

“This is my home and where I want to settle down and raise my children. I want to see the county prosper while maintaining our low taxes and exceptional service. We are fortunate to have qualified county staff, and together with the council’s guidance, we will take Sussex County into the future.”

As county administrator, Lawson will manage a staff of nearly 500 county employees and direct the day-to-day operations of the county government. The administrator is appointed by the Sussex County Council and is responsible for, among other duties, making recommendations to the council, preparing and submitting the annual budget, and carrying out the policies and laws set forth by the council.

County Council President Michael H. Vincent said the council is confident that Lawson has the right mix of knowledge, skills, vision and love of Sussex County to be a success.

“The county administrator is a critical position within county government, and you need the right personality in that position to juggle the multitude of daily demands and interests,” Vincent said. “We believe Todd is that person. He will be a team leader who builds on the great staff we already have in the county, and we look forward to working with him.”

“The committee’s comfortable. The council is comfortable. We’ll look forward to you starting on Aug. 10,” Vincent told Lawson on Tuesday. “And when he feels comfortable, I’m sure Mr. Baker will go off into the sunset.”

Moore, too, offered Lawson a welcome.

“I would like to congratulate him and say, ‘Welcome home.’”