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December 19, 2006 > Charles Lawson retires

Charles Lawson retires

After 11 years as police chief, the two years as city manager, Charles Lawson bids a fond 'adieu.'

by Steve Warga

TCV: What parting thoughts go through your mind one day before retirement?

Lawson: Well, I'd like to say I really enjoyed my time in Milpitas; a total of 13 years. I really do love the city. I think it's an outstanding city to live and to work in. I think we have the best of everything here. I'm talking about the best restaurants, sports facilities, and cultural events. Our housing situation is improving and we have top schools.

You know, we have people from all walks of life. Milpitas residents speak something like 84 different languages and dialects. That's quite a multi-cultural mix!

TCV: Any regrets worth noting?

Lawson: I don't have any regrets. I've worked 34 years, ever since getting out of college, and it's time for a break. Let me say, however, that I wish I could see all of my projects come to their conclusion. But that's something I'd miss if I waited another ten years to retire. There are always long-term projects moving along. But I do wish I could see the completion of our midtown development, the new library, senior center, and parking garages. Plus we have some 4,000 new houses being built.

But I'll leave these projects and more in the very capable hands of my replacement, Tom Williams.

TCV: Was Williams your first choice for the job?

Lawson: When we were ready for applications, I encouraged three of my department managers to apply; Emma Karlen in Finance; Greg Armendariz, our city engineer; and Tom Williams, in Planning. Williams was the only one who submitted an application and he actually got the job, out of 42 candidates. I'm real proud of him.

TCV: What do you see as his strengths?

Lawson: Tom is a quick study and smart on his feet. I was most impressed with the way he caught on so fast here with all our development projects. He digested all the details within a couple of months; then he was able to brief me on what we needed to do.

I also like his ability to build consensus in difficult situations. For instance, we had a dispute with a neighboring city over sewer lines. Tom jumped in and worked with our city attorney and the other parties to resolve things without going to court.

TCV: You view you job as sort of a coaching/cheerleading position, don't you?

Lawson: Yeah. My strongest assets are organizing, leading and building consensus. I've always tried to recruit good, capable people who will jump into the fire, so to speak, and really pull for the team.

I like watching individuals grow into greater responsibilities, much like a young athlete trains and studies to improve his performance. I think of people like Bonnie Greiner and Carmen Valdez who both stepped into department head positions recently. I try to go with in-house staff whenever I can, but I go outside too. Tom Williams was one of those we brought on board from outside current staff, when we hired him as planning director about a year ago.

TCV: Any retirement plans yet?

Lawson: Speaking of coaching, I'm going to work as a volunteer track and cross-country coach for a local high school. So I guess that coaching mentality is in my blood!

TCV: Do you have any closing remarks?

Lawson: Morale is real high in the city. That makes me feel good, and that maybe I made a difference. I'll always be grateful they gave me a chance to do this. I'll miss Milpitas.

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