Support Pete

Council and friends bid Laurence a fond farewell.

December 04, 2006 – By Jill Bedecarre

Whether you came to Oakhurst Country Club on Nov. 17 to roast or toast outgoing Councilman Pete Laurence, you didn’t walk away disappointed. Several hundred of Laurence’s friends, family, fans and colleagues arrived that evening to praise, honor and say goodbye to the man whom many people affectionately refer to as “Mr. Clayton.” Throughout the night, whether the 16-year council veteran was roasted or toasted, one theme rang true: Laurence’s dedication is “all for the good of Clayton.”

The evening’s master of ceremonies, city manager Gary Napper, kept the program rolling – acknowledging Laurence for his 16 years of service from 1990-2006 but insisting that it’s really in the dash between the years where most of Laurence’s accomplishments lie.

During his terms of office, the city went through a metamorphosis with a population increase of nearly 4,000. There was new construction, including the post office, fire station, Diamond Terrace senior housing center and some 1,500 new homes in Oakhurst. The Clayton Community Library and historic renovations throughout town, including Endeavor Hall, are some of Laurence’s proudest moments. Several speakers mentioned Laurence’s key role in stopping a deal to build a garbage dump on the outskirts of Clayton off Marsh Creek Road.

The downtown clock at the corner of Clayton Road and Main Street, which Laurence donated in memory of his parents, stands as a memento to the outgoing councilman’s family ties to a city he served. “It’s near and dear to his heart,” said Councilwoman Julie Pierce, who helped plan Laurence’s farewell party along with city clerk Laci Jackson.

Pierce presented Laurence with a miniature replica of the downtown clock made by the same company that designed the original one. “We appreciate your generosity to the city of Clayton,” she told Laurence.

The crowd was amused by a barrage of clever and corny gifts, including a street sign named Pete Laurence Way celebrating Laurence’s special way of getting things done. Former city manager Rich Hill toyed with Laurence’s unique ability to agree to disagree. “Laurence is so independent that he becomes suspicious when someone agrees with him,” Hill said.

Several people brought along Laurence’s favorite food items, like a can of Budweiser and a box of sugar-coated doughnuts, which he taste-tested through the course of the evening. Sherie, his wife of 36 years, defended his dietary digressions: “Put him in a pair of tight black jeans and he still looks pretty good.”

His notorious debates with the council over the years weaved their way into a few of the evening’s roasts, especially Laurence’s contentious exchanges with Councilman Bill Walcutt. And some of his ideas, which seemed like good ones at the time, added to the evening’s revelry. For example, he wanted to make Marsh Creek Road a one-way thoroughfare between Clayton Road and Diablo Parkway. Laurence was intent on slowing down the East County speeders who cut through town daily on their way to Ygnacio Valley Road.

Former chief of police Pete Peterson personally witnessed the trial run to test the lane closure one chilly December morning. “I never saw so many one-finger salutes in my life. To Pete’s credit, he backed away,” Peterson said, laughing.

Accolades followed the one-liners and were contagious. Sandy Williams eloquently read Laurence’s biography, Capt. Andrew Higgins of the U.S. Marines gave him a personal military sendoff and Mayor Dave Shuey thanked Laurence for mentoring him in his early days on the council. Laurence’s oldest daughter Alana said it best when she spoke about her father’s devoted military and council careers. “When some people call you Mr. Clayton, it truly fits. You are the best of the best.”

But it was the humorous power point presentation given by Concord’s Vice Mayor Mark Peterson that brought down the house, with his Top 10 reasons Why Pete Laurence is Retiring from the Clayton City Council. No. 1: Heard Wal-Mart may be coming to town and wanted to be the first to apply as Wal-Mart’s official greeter.

Pete believes in supporting the community and giving back to those who have helped him. Accordingly Pete has been on almost every Clayton commitee, President of his Homeowners Association, President of Claytons business group (CBCA), Mayor three times and elected to the City Council four consecutive 4-year terms. Linked below is literature from the last election which points out some of the Clayton issues and Pete’s “better qualities”.