In retirement, Lawson helped his hometown

Saturday, January 12, 2019
Tom Lawson
DAR FILE/Paul Davis

When he moved back to his hometown after retiring from a career in public education in 1988, Tom Lawson recalled his wife asking, “You have been busy all your life. What are you going to do when we get to Poplar Bluff.”

As it turned out, a lot.

There was help in getting a half-cent capital improvement tax passed, his 12 years as city manager during which the Black River Coliseum was built, the library expanded as well as parks and more city streets were paved.

After retiring in 2003 as city manager, Lawson again kept helping his hometown.

He served on a highway coalition board to begin discussions with other cities on expanding Highway 67 to four lanes.

Named the chairman of the Highway 67 Corporation Board in 2004, Lawson helped lead the group and city to pass a half-cent road improvement tax to fund the project.

It passed with a 69 percent majority and Poplar Bluff agreed to fund half of the construction costs of the estimated $60 million project.

“The highway didn’t cost as much as orginally thought and financial help from Senator Kit Bond and Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson helped reduce what we owed,” Lawson said.

In 2020, Poplar Bluff’s portion of the expansion will be paid off after just 15 years.

The expansion of Highway 67 is credited with the growth seen on the north side of Poplar Bluff. Here we have the new Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, Eight Points shopping area, expansion of Oak Grove Road and the new Shelby Road.

Tax revenues for the city of Poplar Bluff are increasing and the town is seeing growth thanks to the seeds planted by community leaders such as Lawson.

This week, during his time at the city council meeting, city manager Mark Massingham noted that Lawson will be moving away as he continues to enjoy his retirement.

In 30 years since his return, Lawson was paramount in helping Poplar Bluff blossom into the growing city it is today.

Lawson admitted recently he had no plans at the time of his return to Poplar Bluff, but told his wife, “You know me, I want to do something to help my hometown.”

He did and we thank him.

— Daily American Republic

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: