KEN LAWRENCE JR.
To many, it was a surprise when the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas appointed Ken Lawrence to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners in January 2017 to fill out the unexpired term of newly-elected Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. In retrospect, the judges seem prescient.
Most Montgomery County residents did not know the name Ken Lawrence, Jr., but it was a rare state or county elected official, civic or business leader who did not. Ken’s name did not conjure up partisan political ire, because, even as a proud Democrat, he had spent two decades in the private sector, charitable endeavors and civic engagement building strong bridges and relationships on both sides of the political divide.
Arguably, few people have ever been elected or appointed to the board of commissioners in Montgomery County better prepared to deal with the issues, the politics and the inter-personal relationships that come with being a commissioner.
His career, which began at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as a Public Policy Representative performing policy development and analysis, grassroots outreach and lobbying on regional business issues, has been diverse, expansive, and challenging. Following his experience at the Chamber of Commerce, Ken moved on to Merck & Company where he handled public relations, product support, community relations, corporate contributions, crisis communications, issues management, government relations and media relations.
With a solid base of experience, Ken then entered entrepreneurship and established his own consulting firm – Public Affairs Strategies – where he represented scores of corporate and non-profit clients with one overriding principle – he had to believe in their product or their mission. People noticed this success, and his beloved Temple University lured him into higher education. First, he served as Senior Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs at Temple, where he oversaw the offices of Government Relations and Community Relations directing all of Temple’s outreach and advocacy activities at the state, local and federal levels of government and community engagement. Subsequently, he served as Temple University’s Vice President for Alumni Relations overseeing the activities of the Office of Alumni Relations and the Temple University Alumni Association. He was the first Vice President appointed to this position in Temple history. Then Montgomery County said they needed him.
Building a career can give a person tunnel vision, where nothing else matters. Not with Ken. He has always been involved in the community. Currently, he is on the boards of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Independence Region; James A. Finnegan Foundation; and, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. In case you were wondering about his commitment to these boards, Ken wasn’t just on the board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, he WAS a big brother.
Ken’s prior board service includes the Avenue of the Arts, Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montgomery County, Committee of Seventy, Easter Seals of Southeastern PA, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, North Penn Chamber of Commerce and the North Penn Valley Boys and Girls Club. He also has been a volunteer youth sports coach for several years in the Plymouth JR ABA and the Colonial Soccer League.
Ken was certainly not an unknown to the Montgomery County Commissioners when the judges appointed him. He was unanimously appointed by the commissioners in 2011 to serve as a county representative to the board of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and was unanimously reappointed in 2016. Previously, he was appointed by the commissioners to the board of the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau and served two terms from 2006-2013. In 2012, Lawrence was a member of the Shapiro-Richards transition team serving on the Transportation and Infrastructure sub-committee.
This body of work and commitment to improving his community has not gone unnoticed. Ken has been the recipient of several major awards including the 2016 Philadelphia Tribune: Most Influential African Americans, the 2005 Philadelphia Business Journal: 40 Under Forty Award, and the 1999 Big Brother of the Year (North Central Philadelphia).
Education has been the cornerstone of Ken’s success. He began his college career attending Montgomery County Community College, and is a graduate of Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Later he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Center of Government.
So, all of that is pretty impressive, right? Yes, but none of that is what Ken is most proud of. That would be his family: Jen, his wife, and their sons, Justin and Josh, they are raising in their Plymouth Meeting home.