Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor, at the Jones House Community Center on Sunday.
N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall presented the award at a reception hosted by the Watauga County Democratic Party.
“This award is reserved for those people who have distinguished themselves over a long career,” said Marshall. “Loretta has been a friend across the years, but more importantly, she’s been a leader.”
Awarded by the governor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is “presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state,” according to the governor’s office. Individuals must have at least 30 years of public service to be eligible for the award.
Clawson, who grew up in Old Beech Mountain, worked for the N.C. Department of Transportation for 21 years and the Watauga County Clerk of Court’s office for four years.
She was elected to the Boone Town Council in 1997, serving eight years on the council before being elected mayor. She will have served eight years as mayor at the completion of her current term, which Clawson says is her last. The term will end in late 2013.
“I think after eight years on council and eight years as mayor that it’s time to step over,” Clawson said. “I’m going to be entering the next phase of my life.” Clawson said she plans to travel and spend more time with her family once her term as mayor is over.
She has also served with numerous committees, projects and other organizations, including Boone’s Community Appearance Commission and sign ordinance committee, the Chapter 1 Reading Program, Project Graduation and the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.
At the state level, Clawson has served as the second vice president of the N.C. League of Municipalities, on the State Executive Council of the North Carolina Democratic Party, on the Council of Governments Joint Regional Forum, on the N.C. Coalition of Mayors, on the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and on the Governor’s Council on Aging.
“It’s just something I love to do,” Clawson said. “I love the opportunity to be able to serve — I love the confidence that people place in me.”
Clawson’s husband, children, grandchildren and other family members attended Sunday’s reception in addition to community members and town staff members.
“Loretta is the inspiration for our party,” said Diane Tilson, chair of the Watauga County Democratic Party.
A number of attendees thanked Clawson for her service and credited her with motivating them to serve as well.
“She’s one of the reasons I want to run for commissioner,” said Virginia Roseman, a candidate in this year’s Watauga County Commission race.
Another commissioner candidate, Billy Kennedy, said, “Thank you for being a great role model and mentor about what an honest politician can be.”
Said Clawson, “It’s been a pleasure all these years. This is just so very, very special to me.”