Midlands school district hires engineer from failed project as head of construction

Lexington-Richland 5 school district

Lexington-Richland 5 school district hired a familiar face as its new facilities director.

Clay Cannon, the civil engineer on two of the district’s most controversial school construction projects, was offered the job after the school board voted on the position at its Aug. 19 meeting following an executive session discussion about “employment matters.”

The school district announced the new hire on Sept. 4. Cannon was reached by phone but did not immediately answer questions about his new job.

In his role as director of facilities operations, Cannon will oversee construction and maintenance of school district facilities and the staff that carries out that work. He will also be in charge of preparing and presenting budgets to the school board, coordinating with district contractors and managing project progress.

Cannon, who graduated cum laude from Clemson University, joins the district from RB Todd & Associates Consulting Engineers, where he was hired as a civil engineer in August 2013 and became partner in December 2016. He is a registered professional engineer in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, according to a news release from RB Todd at the time of Cannon’s promotion to partner. He is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, according to the school district.

While at RB Todd, Cannon worked on projects such as the University of South Carolina Law School, Midlands Technical College Library and Riverbanks Zoo & Garden’s Waterfall Junction, according to a news release from the district.

“In addition to my work in other sectors, I have worked as a consultant and project manager for School District Five and other educational institutions and have always appreciated the work that they do,” Cannon said in the news release. “This new role allows me to put my training and experience to work solely for the students.”

Prior to his work at RB Todd, Cannon worked as a project manager for Power Engineering. He was one of many contractors involved in designing and planning the Derrick Pond Road elementary school that was never built after the district abandoned the project about eight years ago.

One of many problems the district faced on the Derrick Pond Road project was that the school land did not have the required frontage on a major road.

When asked in February about his work on the Derrick Pond Road school and if he should have known the project had issues, Cannon referred questions to the school district and ended the phone call.

Cannon’s firm also worked on the Amicks Ferry Road elementary school, which is scheduled to open next school year.

That project upset neighbors who worried about traffic congestion and other issues caused by having an elementary school on the peninsula by Lake Murray. The land the Amicks Ferry school sits on was purchased by the district in 2017 for $932,950.

Cannon has personal history with Lexington-Richland 5, too. Apart from his professional work, he attended Chapin High School. He was an honor roll student and played basketball and baseball, according to reports in The State.

Cannon will replace former facilities director Scott Carlin, who accepted a similar job at the Greenville County School District this summer after working for Lexington-Richland 5 for 20 years.

The school district’s chief finance and operations officer, Len Richardson, said he was excited to bring Cannon onboard, according to the district’s news release.

“He brings a wealth of professional experience and knowledge that will ensure we continue to provide facilities where our students can learn and grow to their fullest potential,” Richardson said.

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Isabella Cueto is a bilingual multimedia journalist covering Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She previously worked as a reporter for the Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She is a graduate of the University of Miami, where she studied journalism and theatre arts.