Ernest Larry Lawton, business owner, truck driver and minister, is running for mayor with goals of providing for public safety and promoting business expansion in Statesboro, he said Tuesday.
Lawton, now 70, was born in another Bulloch County town, Register, and graduated from William James High School in 1969. After years away in the Detroit area where he worked in first the automotive industry and later for the U.S. Postal Service, he returned in 1985 and has now been a resident of Statesboro for 25 years. He continued his education at Georgia Southern University, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in 2005.
He and his wife own Hallelujah Transportation, a trucking company moving shipping containers in and out of warehouses to and from the Port of Savannah. In 1994 he became founding minister, as Apostle Lawton, of Spirit-Filled Baptist Church, now at 62 Packinghouse Road. His wife, the Rev. Deborah Lawton, is now the pastor there and has been for six years.
This is Ernest Lawton’s first candidacy for public office. In a brief phone interview Tuesday, he was asked what his goals would be as mayor.
“The main two that I have are public safety and business expansion,” Lawton said. “I’m looking at Statesboro and I see that we have an awesome university right in Statesboro, and from the time I’ve been here it doesn’t seem like we’ve benefited from our children that go there, because most of them when they graduate go off to someplace else to work.”
So he would support efforts to encourage businesses to expand in Statesboro and others to relocate here and would consider a program to provide funds for university graduates to start businesses if they remain here, he said.
“If our graduates that go there keep going somewhere else, and then with the young people that we have here we haven’t found how to motivate them to go to school, then Statesboro is going to be very stagnant in its growth,” Lawton said. “I love Statesboro. I want it to be the model city.”
He had completed the paperwork and paid the $560 qualifying fee as a mayoral candidate Monday. So did incumbent Mayor Jonathan McCollar, and as of Tuesday evening they remained the only candidates for this office. The nonpartisan city election will conclude with in-person Election Day voting Nov. 2, after an early-voting period.
Family and ministry
In addition to their work with their church, Ernest Larry Lawton and Deborah Lawton founded the Tri-County Ministries of Jesus Christ. This organization offers help, and information on where to get help, to people in need in Bulloch, Evans and Screven counties.
The Lawtons have been married 33 years and have a large family, with 11 children including four they adopted. The youngest, age 15, still lives with them, but the rest have grown up and gone out on their own.
The Statesboro City Council seats in District 1 and District 4 are also up for election this year, and both had candidates qualified as of Monday, as previously reported. The qualifying fee for council candidates is $227.
Qualifying remains open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. each day through Friday at the office of City Clerk Leah Harden inside City Hall, 50 East Main St.