Recently, Kelly Lawton, Republican candidate for Tucson City Council in Ward II, held a campaign event. It was a sort of meet and greet the main event being a bicycle ride. I wondered, “What might a Republican bicycle ride look like? Will they pull $99 department store bikes from the beds of their 4WD pickup trucks, roll up their jeans, and pedal around the parking lot?”
I felt a deep need to know and so participated in the event. As it turned out, the crowd, including the candidate and his family, were full-on road racer types complete with lycra shorts, shaved legs, and even some real team jerseys. Kelly Lawton is actually a triathlete, so his bike was set up for time trialing. Fortunately for me the ride was a mere 14 miles at a recreational pace—which meant that the main group of riders was never quite out of his sight.
After the ride, and some coffee and pastries, Kelly Lawton spoke with the me about his life and his candidacy.
Lawton had a 22 year career in the airline business. Starting out loading baggage and cleaning airplanes for TWA, he eventually moved to Delta where he held jobs in every aspect of airport operations. He retired from Delta in 2008. After completing a masters program in 2002, he took his first job with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as an instructor. He taught management classes in airline and airport operations. For the past eight years, Lawton has worked as the campus director for the Embry-Riddle campuses in both Tucson and Sierra Vista.
Lawton’s passion for aviation was first sparked as a child in the early ‘70’s when his family decided to watch planes land. So, they parked the car near the end of a runway at LAX where 747 airliners were coming in to land (think “Wayne’s World”). He watched and thought, “I want to do that!”
Lawton is a native Tucsonan who earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona. He believes that Tucson is on a path of decline and needs new leadership and fresh ideas. He believes that the city could use leaders with a better understanding of business and budgetary issues. He sees the problems as citywide. “It’s quality of life. One in four children live in poverty. A third of our population earns less than $25,000 a year. We are the fifth poorest city in cities of comparable size.”
He added that roads are better, but we need and annual maintenance schedule to maintain them. With effective maintenance, roads will last longer.
Lawton continued, “There is one individual on that council who I think does exhibit some leadership, Steve K. He’s the only one who voted against the budget, $1.36 billion, and said, ‘How are we going to pay this?’” He added, “I think we really need to focus on reengineering the way we do business and look at our departments.”
Lawton believes that Tucson city government could benefit from a “top down, bottom up review” which would help identify overlaps in spending and bring fresh ideas to the administration. “I’m not going to be middle of the road status quo. I’m not going to settle for that. If there is something that not in the best interest (of the city), I’m going to raise my hand and vote ‘No’,” he said.