By Nathan Ham
After spending over 20 years serving on the Boone Town Council and as the Mayor of Boone, Loretta Clawson has made the tough decision to step down from the council due to health issues.
“I chose to retire on January 31 because we go into budget and planning and everything in February so I thought it was best to do it now,” Clawson said on Friday.
She was first elected to the town council in 1997 and was elected as mayor in 2005. Clawson served as mayor until 2013 when she decided not to seek re-election, but was later appointed to fill a town council seat that had been vacated by former member Jennifer Pena. Clawson won re-election in 2015 and once again in 2019.
“It has all been a pleasure for me. I have lived in Boone since 1966 and I’ve always been involved with kids at Hardin Park, at the high school and students at ASU. I think it’s the most wonderful community that we could ever have,” Clawson said. “We are a vibrant community and everybody loves to come and see us.”
Loretta grew up in the Old Beech Mountain community in Avery County before moving to Boone and beginning her factory job at Shadowline, Inc. She was the sewing room supervisor before eventually leaving there, taking a job working in the Watauga County Clerk of Court’s office in 1975. Her longest-tenured job was at the North Carolina Department of Transportation Bridge Department where she worked from 1981 until her retirement in 2001.
Clawson’s interest in politics started to grow well before she ever ran for office in Boone. She has served as a member of the Watauga County Democratic Party since 1976, longer than any other member that she is aware of.
Aside from her political career, Loretta has dedicated much of her life to other aspects of the community. She has served on the historic preservation board, parks and recreation board, state council on aging board and the Boone Tourism Development Authority board.
“I love people, I love being with people. COVID has been really hard for me,” said Clawson. “I enjoy meetings. People just roll their eyes at me when I say that, but I enjoy meetings and getting together with people and sharing different ideas. You have to make decisions and I’ve always been up to that. I’ve had to make some tough decisions.”
Loretta says that she will get back involved with things around Boone once she takes care of her health issues and once COVID-19 gets under control.
Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz said that the town would miss Loretta and her enthusiasm for the Town of Boone.
“She has made a wonderful contribution to Boone and to the quality of life in our community. She cares about people and she has committed herself to Boone in so many different ways,” Brantz said. “She’s just so invaluable, I hate to see her retire but I know she has other obligations. She has been a wonderful colleague, thoughtful and always ready to help and support. We’re going to miss Loretta a great deal.”
Mary Moretz has known Loretta for about 16 years and both have been extremely involved with the history of Boone and have worked together with numerous historical projects.
“Loretta Clawson’s service to the Town of Boone transcends politics. She truly loves all people and enjoys interacting with them. A perfect mayor and councilwoman, she possesses a thousand-watt smile and an engaging personality,” said Moretz. “Additionally, she always does her homework and is knowledgeable about issues that affect our community in the present and into the future. It is important to have someone with her passion for the town who does not sacrifice short-term revenue for long-term damage, and who acts to improve the quality of life for the residents of both town and gown.”
Clawson said she has been really proud of renovating the post office on King Street to save a significant piece of history downtown. She is also happy with how well the Jones House has been preserved and how it is a central piece to the success of downtown Boone.
Policy-wise, the steep slope ordinance, the creation of Clawson-Burnley Park (named for Loretta and former mayor Velma Burnley), the New River Water Intake Project and the restoration of the Appalachian Theatre are just a few of the things that she is proud to have played a part in as mayor and on the town council.
In 2012, Clawson was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor given out to citizens for their service to North Carolina and their communities. She was presented the award by N.C. Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall.
“It has been a wonderful journey all these years. I have enjoyed the people and made so many friends,” she said.
Wright Tilley, the executive director of the Boone TDA, has worked with Clawson as she has served as a board member of the TDA for the last year.
“Loretta has always been a supporter of tourism in Boone and the Boone area and understands its economic impact on the community. As a result, she has been a good supporter for the Tourism Development Authority, both in her role as mayor and more recently as the council representative to the TDA board,” Tilley said.
As Boone will continue to grow into the future, Clawson says she is excited for what the future holds for the town, including the new 54-acre municipal complex that will be built on Highway 421. The complex will be the new home for the Boone Police Department, an additional fire station, the public works department and the planning & inspections department, among others. Clawson added that she is really pleased with the progress of sidewalk construction throughout Boone and hopes to see the Howard Street project finally finished.
“It would be really important to me because we’ve worked on it for so many years,” she said.
Loretta added that she is very proud of the staff members from the Town of Boone that she has worked with over the years.
“I think we have an excellent staff and I think that it shows,” she said.