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Sussex Administrator Lawson tapped for Carney’s transition team

Governor-elect sets up 35-member group to look at issues facing Delaware
Sussex County County Administrator Todd Lawson will be leading the budget and workforce committee for Governor-elect John Carney’s transition team. RON MACARTHUR PHOTO
December 29, 2016

Sussex County County Administrator Todd Lawson said there wasn’t much to think about when Governor-elect John Carney approached him on Return Day about being co-chair of Carney’s 35-person transition team.

“When the governor-elect asks you to do something, it’s hard to say no,” said Lawson.

Carney announced Nov. 23 the group had been selected to help state government operations and to develop a policy action plan to guide his term in office. The team is divided into four committees: economic development and healthy environment; public safety and strong neighborhoods; education and healthy families; and state budget and workforce.

“Our state faces a lot of serious challenges, and so I intend to hit the ground running when I take office in January," said Carney in a prepared statement when the team was announced. “We’ve assembled a team of people who are experts in their fields, have deep ties to the community and share my vision for making Delaware a place where every person has the chance to be successful.”

Lawson, a Republican, is the head of the budget and workforce committee, two areas he deals with daily as county administrator. The county is a microcosm of how state government works, he said, pointing to the nearly 500 employees and an overall budget of about $150 million.

In addition to the workforce and budget qualifiers, Lawson, who will begin his sixth year as county administrator Jan. 1, said he thinks the county has made improvements on inter-agency coordination.

The turnaround on creating the governor-elect’s action plan is short – Dec. 30. Lawson described the transition team’s scheduling as aggressive.

Since the announcement of the team, Lawson said committee members have been gathering information from stakeholders and each committee held a public hearing Dec. 17 at Dover Downs, which Lawson said included healthy discussions on workforce diversity and revenue generating ideas during his committee’s hearing.

Lawson said by Friday, Dec. 23, all the information has to be compiled into one document so the members can weed out what they don’t want in the document presented to the other three committees, who are all going through the same process.

“It’s a big deal. When you say yes to something like this, you have to put forth your best effort,” said Lawson. “I’ve certainly had to adjust my holiday plans, but we hadn’t made plans to go anywhere.”

Lawson said as county administrator he’ll make sure Sussex is well represented at the meetings, but, he continued, the groups have been tasked with specific issues and items of implementation to focus on.

Most importantly, said Lawson, this will have no effect on his day job. It’s strictly volunteer, he said.

“It’s just a temporary assignment of the highest level,” he said.

The transition team as a whole will be chaired by William Bowser, partner at the Wilmington-based Young, Conaway, Stargatt, & Taylor LLC. Albert Shields, deputy state director in Carney’s congressional office, will serve as transition policy director.

The three other co-chairs of the transition team are Doneene Damon, executive vice president of Richards, Layton & Finger; Charles Madden, Wilmington Hope Commission executive director; and Lolita Lopez, Westside Family Healthcare president and CEO.

Additional transition team representatives from Sussex County include Lynda Messick, Community Bank Delaware founder; Chris Perdue, Perdue Agribusiness business development; Ted Becker, Lewes mayor and Delaware Healthcare Commission member; Megan Williams, population health executive director at Beebe Healthcare; and Lt. Col. Angela Showell, Delaware National Guard.