Former county official in Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin and New York to start as county administrator Sept. 6

The Yates County Legislature has appointed Robert Lawton Yates County Administrator, a post he will officially take Sept. 6.

Although he is coming from Santa Rosa, Calif., his work history includes government service in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New York.

Lawton, appointed to serve through Dec. 31, 2017, was selected from three finalists who were interviewed in mid-July. Lawton took his seat in the administrator’s chair at the beginning of the Aug. 8 legislature meeting of the legislature. His annual salary will be $100,000 in addition to county benefits.

The 2016 budget includes over $99,400 for the administrator’s salary.

“I will always work for the body of the legislature for the institution of the legislature for all the departments and all the people of Yates County,” Lawton said after being introduced by Chairman Timothy Dennis following the unanimous appointment.

Lawton told the legislators he felt positive energy from the legislators and department heads he was able to meet with during a recent visit.

“I’m looking forward to a long and happy association with the folks here in this room and everybody beyond,” he said.

Lawton has most recently served as Deputy County Administrator in Sonoma County Calif. Prior to that he was County Manager in Luzerne County Pa. for about four years until his resignation on Dec. 31, 2015.

Luzerne County is a county located southwest of Scranton. According to the 2010 census, the population was 320,918. Its county seat is Wilkes-Barre. There are 11 members of the Luzerne County Council.

Lawton received his Bachelor’s degree at SUNY New Paltz and his M.A. at the University of Iowa. In addition, he is certified with several nationwide executive credentials. He is active in the National Association of Counties and the International City/County Managers Association.

In New York State, his first government job was in Albany County. He later worked in Schenectady County and then in the state legislature.

One of the accomplishments he’s most proud of from his time in Luzerne County was helping the county re-finance a portion of its long-term debt. “We reduced the debt service costs by $4 million in fiscal year 2015, which was a tax savings directly back to the general fund. It was a great achievement for the staff and a benefit to the taxpayers,” he said.

Looking forward to Sept. 6 Lawton says he’ll spend time reviewing the Yates County budget, and the data and information that was collected and analyzed during the Yates and Schuyler County shared services study, among other things. When he steps into the county office building on Liberty Street, his priority will be to meet with every department. “I’m going to be spending time with everybody. I want to get to know the departments and their staff,” he said after the legislature meeting. Saying he wants to find out what expectations department heads, stakeholders and legislators have in order to form a work plan, he adds, “It’s important to listen first and act later.”

Lawton will be moving to Yates County, settling in the town of Milo where he and his wife have purchased a home, according to a press release issued by Legislative Chairman Timothy Dennis.

“I am incredibly happy to be here. I look forward to being part of this community for a long time to come, and I really am humbled by the vote of confidence by the legislators. I will work hard at getting to justify that confidence,” he said Monday afternoon.

In welcoming Lawton to the position, Dennis read a statement that said in part, “You will be working directly with a very talented and dedicated team of managers and elected officials. You will find them committed to Yates County and the overall success of the entire county... We are diverse in our backgrounds and experience. Like the management team, we all want Yates County to be safe, prosperous and a preferred place for businesses and families to grow.”

Dennis said, “On behalf of the Yates County Legislature I would like to formally thank the County Administrator Taskforce for tirelessly working to evaluate our government and fill the position.”

Taskforce members consisted of County Attorney Scott Falvey, Public Health Director Deb Minor, Treasurer Nonie Flynn and Personnel Officer Kerry Brennan, Legislators, James Smith, James Multer, Mark Morris and Doug Paddock. I would especially like to thank Doug Paddock who chaired the committee and worked countless hours getting us to this point.”