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District 5 council election: Lawhorn looks to ‘hit the ground running’ in second term

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In his first two years as a city councilman, Jason Lawhorn learned a lot about how the city runs, he said. Now, he’s eager to return for a second term and continue shepherding through several projects he’s already started.

“Now I’ve completed my second year, I feel I can hit the ground running and start to effect change more and spend less time learning,” Lawhorn said.

In the July 28 election, Lawhorn is being challenged by political newcomer Brian Anderson. He represents District 5, which is located in the northwest part of the city and includes Christianstead, West Branch, Fairfield, Fairfield Crest, Terry Manor, most of New London Road and surrounding areas.

Lawhorn, 43, grew up outside Wilmington and graduated from Delcastle High School before enlisting in the United States Navy. He served four years as an engineer aboard the destroyer U.S.S. John Hancock.

He moved to the Newark area two decades ago, first living in Scottfield and then moving to Fairfield. He attended UD and started his career at Rodel. He now works as research manager for Advanced Materials Technologies in Wilmington. Lawhorn also serves as vice president of Newark American Little League.

He was first elected in 2018, beating two other candidates for the open seat.

Lawhorn campaigned on increasing decorum on council and said recently that he believes that council has worked together better lately.

“That was something a lot of people talked about,” Lawhorn said. “I think we’ve come a long way in two years.”

He added that two years ago, the biggest concerns from constituents were the Fairfield Shopping Center and the Pomeroy connector trail. Both issues have been resolved; Food Lion opened in the renovated shopping center in February 2019, and the trail opened in September.

“Those are projects that were already underway, but I played a part in trying to keep those moving and to keep them high on the priority list for staff,” Lawhorn said.

He added that he is proud of his efforts to improve the relationship between the city and the university, adding that there is still more work to be done.

“I attended the board of trustees meeting, and I’ve met with some senior officials at the university to try to understand where some of the barriers may be so that moving forward, we can try to work to eliminate them and encourage the relationship at higher levels,” he said. “I think the staffs work pretty well together, but we can plan better on more long-term visions.”

Going forward, he wants to help the city create a strategic plan.

“Over the last few years, we’ve significantly improved how we prioritize issues and organized how we talk about them so that we’re a little more efficient,” he said. “Implementing a strategic plan creates a more informed plan that residents are engaged in, staff is engaged in, and council is engaged in, to create a clear and agreed-upon path forward for the city that will affect everything we do on a daily basis.”

One of the dominant issues over the next few months will be the 2021 budget, which will be majorly impacted by the pandemic and its effect on the economy. Lawhorn said he’s proud of how the city has reacted to the crisis already.

“We’ve been proactive, and we’ve already done a lot,” he said. “We jumped on it early, and being proactive looks like it’s going to get us through 2020.”

Looking ahead to next year, he expects to see some vacant positions stay unfilled and said the city will need to look for ways to best utilize the staff it has.

“It’s about making sure we have good data on what our revenue will be so that we can make good projections and then prioritizing which services are most important so that if we do need to cut back on services, we’re being mindful of which services are required and which are nice to have and desired by residents,” he said.

Lawhorn also hopes to see more progress on initiatives already underway.

“We have a parking plan that we’ve implemented that we want to see through and make sure those improvements are implemented,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about rental housing and a lot of things we should do. The rental housing committee has worked its way through, and it’s time to start executing on those.”

Lawhorn said he is committed to serving his district.

“Being a councilperson isn’t a part-time job relegated to weekly meetings – it means participating in events, talking with neighbors, and working closely with staff to constantly identify opportunities to improve our community,” he said. “If re-elected, I will continue to dedicate the time, energy and effort required to best represent my district.”

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