The Guilford County Republican Party has a new secret weapon – however, due to growing success and widening reputation, that secret weapon is becoming less of a secret every day.
Guilford County Republican Party Chairman Troy Lawson, the animated and passionate new head of the county’s Republican Party, was elected to a two-year term in March and he has hit the ground running. He suddenly seems to be everywhere all at once.
Lawson, who’s turning 55 in July and is the first black Guilford Party Republican Party chairman, said he’s working hard to ramp up the party’s “ground game” to full speed and get more Republicans elected to office. Lawson said his main goals right now are to “find good candidates, spread the message and help fund-raising.”
“The ground game is a constant thing,” he said, which includes basic but important tasks like “keeping the polls covered around election time.”
When asked about a typical day, Lawson said, “It’s never a typical day.”
He said that running the party office, working with a large number of volunteers, answering phones and planning events occupies much of his time. He said that this year the Republican Party of North Carolina is celebrating its 150-year birthday and there are several upcoming events related to that celebration that are keeping him busy.
Lawson grew up in Boston and attended Boston College before moving to Baltimore. After a stint as a manager for a car rental company, he found his calling in the education field. He’s worked as an admissions counselor for much of his career. Before moving to North Carolina, he was the executive director of the Maryland Association of Private Colleges and Career Schools.
Currently, he’s working toward an MBA with a focus on marketing. He said he works on Republican Party duties during the day and does homework at night.
“I don’t see how people with a full-time job do it,” he said of being the party’s chairman. “It keeps me busy.”
He said he’s not sure what he wants to do after he completes his MBA.
Lawson said his wife, who is a nurse and is originally from High Point, wanted to move back to this area about two years ago, which is why they now call Greensboro home.
Lawson said he is Republican through and through.
“I’ve been a Republican since I was 15,” he said.
He said he doesn’t concern himself with being the first black Republican Party chairman in Guilford County since he has never focused on color.
“Certainly, being the first anything is important, but I don’t dwell on that,” he said. “I have never lived my life as a color.”
Lawson said he feels as though, when he was elected, party officials didn’t see color but instead saw someone who could advance the Republican cause and would work hard for it.
He has been highly visible, attending everything from a recent Rhino Times Schmoozefest to grand openings and Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ meetings. Like the party he runs, the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners is close to his heart.
“This is all about connecting with folks on a lot of different levels,” Lawson said. “The commissioners are another group run by Republicans. I know each one of them personally and I like each one of them.”
He said he’s trying to take the party down new roads.
“One of my priorities is to do it in a little different way,” he said. “We’re trying to reach out in areas that Republicans haven’t reached out to in the past. For instance, we’re now members of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce – we haven’t been in the past.”
He added that the party is also about to join the High Point Chamber of Commerce as well.
Lawson replaced Guilford County Republican Party Chairman Ernie Wittenborn, who didn’t run for reelection to that post and who has a great deal of praise for Lawson.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, who nominated Lawson for the position earlier this year, also has nothing but praise for the new party chairman.
“I think Troy is a perfect fit in terms of leadership,” Phillips said. “He’s an incredibly hard worker and he’s proven himself to be worthy. Troy understands the importance of getting out of the box.”
He said the party’s new philosophy is, “Let’s go places we haven’t gone before; let’s go to meetings we haven’t been to before.”
Phillips said that, in the short time Lawson has been chairman, the positive response has been impressive. He said Republicans appreciate Lawson’s work ethic and his commitment to seeing things through. He is all about real world action, Phillips said.
“He’s not just talker,” Phillips said. “His actions speak for him. He’s garnered a tremendous amount of respect. I’m excited about where he’s going to take us.”
Phillips said – as he did when he nominated Lawson for the job – that it’s not every day an African American walks into the headquarters of the Republican Party and asks enthusiastically, “What can I do to help?”
Phillips and Lawson were brought closer together by a common interest – the promotion of charter schools in the county. Charter school advocacy has been a big issue for several Republicans on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and Phillips and Lawson have both been active with establishing Gate City Charter Academy.
“Education is something we can all relate to,” Lawson said.
Phillips said that Lawson has been an invaluable asset to Gate City Charter.
“He’s at that school every week,” Phillips said. “He’s been running to Raleigh when one of us couldn’t go and he was flying to DC to learn about what’s needed to start a charter school.”
He said that, while Guilford County has some good schools doing a solid job educating children, charter schools are needed to fill the voids. He said the support of charter schools by President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is helping the cause.
“That’s not an issue that’s going to go away,” Lawson said.
Lawson said that for the most part he stays away from party policy debates and leaves that up to the county’s elected Republican officials, but he added there are obviously common strands that unite the party such as the fight for lower taxes.