Local high school teacher and coach thinks he can bridge political divide

Jay "Ryan" Lawler speaking to McLean County Board members at a special meeting Friday night
Jay "Ryan" Lawler speaking to McLean County Board members at a special meeting Friday night(McLean County/YouTube)
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 7:56 PM CDT
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MCLEAN COUNTY (25 News Now) - A Heyworth High School teacher and coach has taken his seat on the McLean County Board, believing he can help mend fences in an otherwise polarized political environment.

Normal resident Jay “Ryan” Lawler, a Democrat, was appointed to fill the vacant District 4 county board seat, but will hold the office only about three months until after the November election.

Lawler, who teachers government and is Heyworth High’s head girls’ basketball coach, replaces Matt Coates, who resigned when Gov. JB Pritzker appointed him to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

“If I think I can find common ground with 18-year olds who are very passionate and love to speak out, I’d like to think I can find common ground with adults as well,” Lawler told board members during a special meeting Friday night.

The board confirmed Lawler’s appointment on a voice vote, with Democrat Shayna Watchinski of District 8 voting no. She wanted the seat filled by Krystle Able, who initially applied for the vacancy, but Republicans shot down her appointment because of her views on law enforcement.

Watchinski issued a statement after Friday’s meeting.

“Before tonight’s meeting, I heard several people tell Mr. Lawler that ‘if he has a heartbeat’ he would get approved tonight. When women make the commitment to run for office, we know we must sacrifice our time, energy, privacy, etc., to earn out place at the table. Tonight, my vote stands in support, not just of Krystle Able, but of every woman who has run or will run for office. I expect more for the people of McLean County than just ‘a heartbeat.’

Able is one of four people - two Democrats and two Republicans - running in the November election for the two District 4 seats. Lawler’s name is not on the ballot for the district that mainly covers west and north-central parts of Normal.