Incoming administrator not totally unfamiliar with NK
While G. Cabell Lawton IV may be new to New Kent, he is not totally unfamiliar with what will soon be his surroundings as the county’s administrator. In the not too distant past, he considered relocating to the county.
“I’ve always been interested in New Kent,” he said in a telephone interview last week from his office in Fluvanna County where he holds a similar post.
“It’s been a community on my radar for a long time,” he said. “There are many opportunities the county has, given its location. At one point, I thought about living there, but then made the move to Fluvanna.”
Lawton, the county administrator for Fluvanna since 2003, takes over as New Kent’s administrator on Feb. 16. County Board of Supervisors members announced his hiring during their Jan. 11 meeting.
Chosen from a pool of 83 applicants, Lawton replaces John Budesky who resigned last August to accept the executive director’s post for the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Commission in Richmond. Assistant Administrator Bill Whitley has been serving in an interim capacity since Budesky’s departure.
“These opportunities only come along every so often,” Lawton said concerning his decision to seek the New Kent position. “So I applied for the job and, fortunately, the board saw fit to give it to me.”
Lawton, 41, comes to New Kent from a county somewhat larger in terms of population (about 27,000) but with many of the same problems as well as similarities. Located close to Charlottesville, Fluvanna, like New Kent, experienced rapid growth and an accompanying housing boom earlier in the decade. Now, thanks to the ongoing economic downturn, growth has slowed in both localities.
Also in the realm of similarities, Fluvanna is in the process of building a new $71 million high school. New Kent opened its new high school in 2008. The county also has a single middle school and three elementary schools, one more than New Kent, although school officials here say a third elementary is on the horizon.
Interstate 64, meanwhile, runs through the heart of New Kent. Officials here have taken steps to promote commercial development at the county’s three interchanges.
Further west, the highway barely bisects the northern fringe of Fluvanna, and there are no interchanges in that county. Nevertheless, Lawton has helped lead an effort to cluster commercial development near the closest interchange at Zion Crossroads in neighboring Albemarle, about a mile from the Fluvanna line.
Then there’s the major problem all localities face — coping with declining revenue when it comes to building annual budgets.
“I just got through with a budget meeting here, and it’s dire,” Lawton said. “We’re having to wait and see what the new governor proposes to change what Gov. Kaine has already proposed.”
When he assumes his new post next month, he plans to dive headlong into New Kent’s budget process.
“Once I get there on the 16th, it will be my personal focus,” he said. “Then I want to establish relationships with the people in the community. Mr. Budesky left the county in good health, and Mr. Whitley maintained that.
“I eventually plan to do some evaluating, but I don’t have a mandate to come in and change the organization at this point,” he added.
Lawton, a Richmond native, is a graduate of East Carolina University. He began his public service career in the Northern Neck in Northumberland and Lancaster counties. He accepted the post as planning director for Fluvanna in 1997, working his way up to assistant administrator before being elevated to administrator.
He and his wife, Cristi, daughters Casey, 3, and Marisa, eight weeks, and stepson Rheisen, 11, plan to move to New Kent and are now in the market for a house.