City administrator to retire after 33 years

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Patrick Lawton took the helm as Germantown City Administrator in 1989 when he was only 33 years old.


Since then, he has worked tirelessly in the same role to nurture and grow Germantown and its employees into the world-class city it is today.


On Monday night, after 33 years with the Germantown, Lawton announced his retirement publicly during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.


His last day with the city will be Dec. 31.


“I just feel that the time is right,” said Lawton. “I’ve enjoyed a long and wonderful career here in Germantown. Together with elected officials, staff and members of the community, I’ve been able to accomplish so much. Germantown employees are some of the best men and women I have ever known and the current roster of directors are capable and committed to ensuring the future success of the city. It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation.”


Out of 85 applicants, Lawton was hired as the assistant to the city administrator in April of 1988.


He and his family moved to the Germantown area from Champaign, Ill. and in August 1989 he received unanimous support from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to become City Administrator under Mayor Charles Salvaggio.


Lawton oversees the day-to-day operations of the city, carrying out the directives handed down by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.


Despite his desk nameplate reading “Boy Genius,” a gift from former Alderman Lisa Parker early in his career, Lawton admits that he doesn’t have the monopoly on good ideas.


“He is very involved in big decisions and is an invaluable source for information, especially during budget season. He forgets nothing,” said Budget and Finance Director Adrienne Royals. “If I had to choose one thing that sets him apart from the rest it’s that he trusts the experience and expertise of staff, always listening before he makes a decision.”
And many decisions have been made during his tenure.


In an interview with journalist Clay Bailey in 1993, Lawton was quoted as saying, “I think about this stuff all the time. There’s so many things out there in every department to do.”


And he was right. During his time as city administrator construction of Germantown Performing Arts Center was completed and a new library was built.


Shortly thereafter, the City assumed operation of Germantown Community Library from Shelby County.

In 1993 Germantown achieved and has since maintained the dual AAA bond rating from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.
The City partnered with Audubon International in order to allow construction of the Wolf River Boulevard Connector. Germantown Fire successfully developed and deployed the City-run ambulance service that now boasts one of the highest cardiac survival rates in the country.


City administration fostered the establishment of Germantown Municipal School District.


Over 300 residents invested more than 2,000 hours in creating the uniquely citizen-driven Germantown Forward 2030 strategic plan which now drives departmental business plans and Individual Employee Development Plans, ensuring that all City work is focused on achieving the 2030 goals.


Lawton steered the City through three recessions and three natural disasters, but asked about what matters most, he replies “relationships.”


His open-door policy ensures that employees from every level and every department feel comfortable approaching him to discuss ideas or concerns.


Lawton is a master at nurturing relationships that help the City workforce thrive and grow.


He has worked alongside public works crews patching potholes and pouring sidewalks, enjoyed breakfast with firefighters and rode along with police officers during their shifts.


And when the sanitation contractor practically walked off the job in 2016, he drove a pick up around collecting trash.
After seeing his vision for a local vaccination site come to fruition, he worked alongside City employees to help ensure the community had easy access to COVID-19 vaccines.


In 2019 under Lawton’s leadership, guidance and perseverance, Germantown became the fourth city in the entire country to have achieved the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.


A presidential-level honor, the award recognizes exemplary U.S. organizations and businesses that demonstrate an unceasing drive for radical innovation, thoughtful leadership and performance improvement.


“The one thing I want people to know is that Germantown isn’t excellent by accident,” said Mayor Mike Palazzolo. “Patrick Lawton has led this City well for many years. It falls on us to continue his legacy of excellence,” Palazzolo added.


“No one ever said the job would be easy, and I have found that to be true, but serving as city administrator for the City of Germantown has truly been a labor of love and the most rewarding role of my professional career,” Lawton said.


When asked about how he intends to spend his time after retirement, he replied “two words – five grandchildren.”
Lawton plans to ease into retirement, spend time with his wife Cathy and the rest of their family and stay active in the community.


So, if you see him in the carline at Riverdale School with a carload of grandkids, smile, wave and remember to be grateful for the prosperous, safe and resilient community that Germantown is.